Elderberry Benefits, Uses & Mocktail Recipe (2024)

We are proud to share this guest post from Dr. Catie Morse, founder and formulator of Dr. Appleseed’s Elderberry Extracts—maker of artisanal, small-batch, elderberry syrups and sweetened andunsweetened elderberry extractsavailable in our online shop.

The elder plant is one of the most widely used health-supporting botanicals in the world. While elderberries have only recently gained attention from the mainstream medical community for their usefulness in promoting resilience and maintaining good health, this herbal ally has long been part of the human story. Considered a longevity aid in folk remedies, there is alsoevidence of humans cultivating elder in agricultural settings all the way back to the end of the Stone Age (around 2000 B.C.E.)! So, what’s kept our species in such a long-term relationship with this potent plant?

Elderberry Benefits According to Traditional Use

Within the folk healing traditions of many cultures, elder flowers and berries have been regarded for supporting the immune and respiratory systems for all age groups. Historically, herbalists have used this versatile plant to help prevent seasonal maladies, break a sweat, induce urination, and clear phlegm. It has also been used to support cardiovascular health and balance the blood sugar.

Elderberry Studies on Immunity, Aging, and Heart Health

Elderberry has gained much attention in medical and phytopharmaceutical research due to its long history of use, excellent safety profile, and therapeutic promise. In vitro, animal, and clinical trials on elderberry have yielded some encouraging findings, and have ushered elderberry into the spotlight.

Elderberries containflavonoids and anthocyanins, phytonutrients that have demonstrated antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and pro-circulatory actions. Clinical research has shown that elderberries demonstrate free radical scavenging activity and renew vitamin C, important factors for promoting healthy aging and supporting a healthy immune response.

Who Can Take Elderberry?

Elderberry is generally regarded as safe by the FDA GRAS list. In reasonable amounts, elderberry preparations are supportive and appropriate for the majority of individuals, including almost anyone looking for a natural, generally safe, and inexpensive herb to build non-specific resilience. Nurses, doctors, travelers, families, children, and those experiencing periods of stress may all find elderberry extracts and syrups helpful in staying well during times of strain.

As with all herbal remedies, caution is recommended for first-time users of elderberry. TheNatural Medicines Comprehensive Database lists theoretical drug-herb interactions between elderberry and immunosuppressive drugs. Anecdotal evidence suggests some individuals with autoimmune conditions may not respond well to elderberry. Before consuming elderberry, please consult your doctor or naturopath if you are unsure what medications you are taking, or if you are pregnant or lactating.

How Much Elderberry Should You Take?

Elderberry syrups and extracts that are designed as supplements (rather than for culinary use) will denote the serving size on the container and suggest an adaptation for children. Generally speaking, you can take elderberry extracts and syrups once a day to maintain wellness, or two to three times a day to address acute symptoms. For elderflower tea, pour hot (not boiling) water over two teaspoons of flowers, steep for 10 minutes, and drink hot to enjoy a flavonoid-infused tea.

Fresh Elderberry Safety & Use

A few safety notes about making your own elderberry remedies from fresh or dried material. The stems, barks, leaves, and seeds of the elder plant contain hydrocyanic acid, a toxic substance that can lead to adverse effects, primarily nausea and diarrhea. The blue and black elderberries can be safely eaten by themselves or mixed into remedies after proper cooking to neutralize their toxins. For an even more conservative approach to consuming elderberries, mash and strain the seeds out using a mesh filter prior to cooking.

If you’re new to practicing herbalism, do your homework first on any plant you plan to grow or use. As a rule, red elderberries (Sambucus racemosa) are to be avoided in herbal preparations unless your apprenticeship with your elders has taught you deeply specific practices regarding handling the lesser used parts and species of the elder plant.

Blue Elderberries vs. Black Elderberries: What’s the Difference?

Different variations of elderberries can be found all over the world. Currently, the most common elderberry variety in the scientific literature and in commercial remedies is the black elderberry, Sambucus nigra. Less commonly, West Coast residents may encounter the native elderberry of this bioregion, the blue elderberry, (Sambucus nigra ssp. cerulea). Both types of elderberry have historically been used medicinally.

Because black elderberries have been more widely studied for efficacy and potential interactions with medications, they have become the variety of choice for physicians and commercial herb growers. However, their historical use suggests that blue elderberries are also of high therapeutic value, and growing them in their native habitat presents an opportunity for regenerative and organic farmers. With its drought tolerance, abundant yield, and benefits for local fauna, blue elderberry is a plant ripe for an agricultural resurgence in the era of climate change. Making this pollinator-friendly keystone species more widely available could help satisfy the growing demand for medicinal elderberry products while promoting local biodiversity and economic growth opportunities.

AtDr. Appleseed’s Elderberry Extracts, we’ve long used blue elderberry in celebration of its ecological sustainability, its natural abundance in the state we call home (California), and its rich history as a folk herbal preparation. Recently, we were also happy to announce the introduction of sustainably sourced European black elderberry. All of our extracts and syrups are produced in small batches to ensure the purity of each natural, vegan, and physician-formulated offering.

For a tasty and healthy dose of health support, try this simple alcohol-free mixed drink recipe featuring our newBlackElderberry Syrup with Mulling Spices—a warming, digestion-aiding, and refreshing seasonal special made with fresh ingredients that’s perfect as an afternoon pick-me-up, or as a festive offering for holiday gatherings.

Spiced Elderberry Shrub Mocktail Recipe


  • 2 dropperfulsBack to School immune support tincture
  • 1 Tbsp.Dr. Appleseed’s Black Elderberry Syrup with Mulling Spices
  • 1 Tbsp. organic, raw apple cider vinegar
  • 2 oz. sparkling water, to taste


  1. Combine all ingredients, mix, and sip (or take as a shot).
  2. If you have a sensitive stomach (or prefer a less tangy drink), add honey to the recipe to reduce the bite of the acidity. Dissolve the honey into the apple cider vinegar at room temperature before adding other ingredients to mix. Or omit the vinegar altogether.


You might also enjoy:

  • Using Herbal Tinctures for Natural Health Support

Written by Dr. Catie Morse, N.D.: Dr. Catie Morse is a naturopathic physician, certified qigong practitioner and creator of Dr. Appleseed’s Elderberry Extracts, with over 15 years of sustainable wild harvesting experience as well as cultivation of Elderberries and extraction. Dr. Morse’s mission is to empower healing connections between people and plants in an effort to inspire more urban and agricultural plantings inclusive of edible, native, and medicinal plants.

Elderberry Benefits, Uses & Mocktail Recipe (4)

Elderberry Benefits, Uses & Mocktail Recipe (2024)


What not to mix with elderberry? ›

Possible Interactions
  • Diuretics (water pills). Diuretics help the body get rid of excess fluid and increase the amount of urine your body makes. ...
  • Diabetes medications. Elderberry may lower blood sugar levels. ...
  • Chemotherapy. ...
  • Laxatives. ...
  • Theophylline (TheoDur). ...
  • Drugs that suppress the immune system.

Is elderberry good for seniors? ›

Elderberry supplements are usually safe for adults, including seniors.

Is elderberry safe for kidneys? ›

Cardiovascular disease risk biomarkers and liver and kidney function are not altered in postmenopausal women after ingesting an elderberry extract rich in anthocyanins for 12 weeks.

What is the healthiest way to consume elderberry? ›

The most popular way to use fresh elderberries is to cook them into a syrup or extract used to support your immune system. With this step-by-step homemade elderberry syrup recipe, you can make your own tincture whenever you want to give your immune system a little extra TLC.

Are there negative side effects of elderberry? ›

Elderberry is possibly unsafe when uncooked leaves, stems, or fruit are consumed. The elderberry plant contains a chemical that produces cyanide in the leaves or other plant parts and in the unripe green fruit. This can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, or more serious side effects if consumed in large quantities.

Can elderberry and vitamin C be taken together? ›

Although elderberry has a history of being used for a wide variety of health reasons, when the goal is to supplement your diet to help support your immune system with Vitamin C and Zinc, the combination of elderberry with Vitamin C and Zinc provides the antioxidant and immune system support that is more helpful than ...

What does elderberry do for your lungs? ›

Elderberry has been shown to shorten the duration of common respiratory ailments. Several studies have reported that elderberry supplements help to shorten the duration of common respiratory ailments.

What is the best form of taking elderberry? ›

You can choose from many forms, such as capsules, teas, lozenges, liquids and gummies. If you struggle with swallowing, you may prefer lozenges or gummies, whereas if you prefer to consume your supplement as a warm drink, tea will suit you. For quick consumption, an elderberry extract or pills will be the way to go.

What did the natives use elderberry for? ›

Indigenous Uses

As a food, elderberries were crushed, strained, and boiled into a syrup or made into a jam. They were used as a sweetener in various recipes. Medicinally, the berries supported the treatment of many illnesses.

How long to cook elderberries to remove toxins? ›

To neutralize toxins, specifically cyanide-inducing glycosides, heat treatment is a must. Boiling elderberries for at least 30 minutes is the go-to method. This ensures the destruction of harmful compounds. Steaming or baking can also do the trick, as long as the berries reach a high enough temperature.

Does cooking elderberries destroy nutrients? ›

Elderberries were more prone to decrease anthocyanin content after cooking process. Nevertheless, about 70% of the anthocyanins were recovered from the fruit and the water used in the cooking process. Berry anthocyanins' content decreased the most in jam, and in recipes with baking soda.

Does elderberry raise your blood pressure? ›

The antioxidants in elderberry have suspected benefits such as, reduced risk of tumors, boosted immune function, lower blood pressure levels, and reduced blood sugar levels.

Is elderberry safe for the heart? ›

Elderberry may have positive effects on some markers of heart and blood vessel health. Studies have shown elderberry juice may reduce the level of fat in the blood and decrease cholesterol. In addition, a diet high in flavonoids like anthocyanins has been found to reduce the risk of heart disease ( 17 , 22 ).

Is elderberry good for high blood pressure? ›

Elderberry can lower blood pressure.

The antioxidants, such as polyphenols found in elderberry, lower blood pressure by reducing oxidative stress. Elderberry also lowers uric acid in the bloodstream. Both oxidative stress and uric acid have been found to be a main cause of high blood pressure.

Does elderberry interact with anything? ›

Elderberry has no known severe, serious, or moderate interactions with other drugs. Elderberry has mild interactions with at least 28 different drugs.

Can you mix elderberry with anything? ›

If desired, you may mix elderberry liquid with water, fruit juice, yogurt, or a smoothie. Call your doctor if the condition you are treating with elderberry does not improve, or if you have a fever for more than 3 days or cold symptoms for more than 7 days.

Does elderberry interact with any supplements? ›

Interactions. If you take any drugs or supplements regularly, talk to your doctor before you start using elderberry supplements. They could interact with chemotherapy for cancer, immunosuppressant drugs, diuretics, and laxatives.

Can you take elderberry and vitamins together? ›

Although elderberry has a history of being used for a wide variety of health reasons, when the goal is to supplement your diet to help support your immune system with Vitamin C and Zinc, the combination of elderberry with Vitamin C and Zinc provides the antioxidant and immune system support that is more helpful than ...

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