Elderberry for Flu Prevention and Treatment

The elder, scientifically known as Sambucus nigra, is a tree that can grow up to 12 feet tall. Its berries and flowers have been used and researched for treating colds and flu, and some studies support these benefits.

Elderberry has a long history in folk medicine, having been used for centuries to manage respiratory conditions and for wound healing, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). Currently it is used primarily for cold, flu and sinus infection treatment due to its anti-inflammatory and antiviral qualities, and may also have potential anti-cancer properties, notes the UMMC.


Fifteen ml of elderberry syrup taken for five consecutive days may help relieve earlier symptoms of the flu, according to a study published in the March 2004 issue of "The Journal of International Medical Research." This study involved 60 participants between the ages of 18 a 54, and the researchers found that symptoms of influenza were ameliorated four days earlier in the group that received elderberry syrup compared with the placebo group. The researchers concluded that elderberry offers a safe, efficient and cost-effective form of therapy for the flu, although larger studies are warranted to confirm these findings.

The University of Maryland Medical Center also notes the positive research that evaluated elderberry for managing colds and flu, further explaining that elderberry may work best when taken at the first symptoms of the flu. In test tubes, elderberry also showed the ability to fight swine flu, or the H1N1 virus, however research in humans is needed to prove this effect, notes the UMMC.

Dosage & Available Forms
One of the most popular forms of elderberry supplement syrup, although lozenges, capsules and teas can also be found as over the counter supplements. For children suffering from colds and flu, a typical dose is 4 tbsp. of elderberry syrup three times daily.