You might have heard of elderberry since the beginning of flu season and wondered if this supplement could be a useful addition to your daily diet.

Current research suggests elderberry syrup may help to ward off symptoms of the flu; however, it is important to know all the facts about taking elderberry and speak to your physician before taking elderberry or any supplement.

The uncooked elderberry fruit is NOT safe and considered toxic; consuming the raw fruit can cause dizziness, nausea, diarrhea and stomach cramping.

Elderberry is a dark purple berry produced by the European elder tree. The elderberry can also be called black elder, common elder or Sambucol (trade name).

Limited research shows the elderberry and its derivatives can be used to improve signs and symptoms of the flu. Elderberry juice syrup appears to relieve flu symptoms and can possibly shorten the length of the flu if it is ingested within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.

Elderberry throat lozenges also appeared to alleviate symptoms if taken within the first 24 hours in some people studied in small clinical trials.

The concern with consuming the elderberry fruit extract seems to stem from the length of time it is consumed. The elderberry derivatives are considered to be “safe” when consumed for 12 weeks in adults and 10 days in children (again, research limited).

There are widespread usage warnings against taking any elderberry product for women pregnant or nursing and those with autoimmune diseases such as lupus and arthritis. Elderberry fires up the immune system and therefore can interact with medications designed to decrease the immune system response, known as immunosuppressant drugs.

Dosing for elderberry syrup for both adults and children varies and a qualified, experienced health professional should be consulted when administering this supplement.

Research-based trials are extremely limited in providing intake information; however, standard dosing will appear on the label or bottle of a commercially sold product.

When purchasing any supplement, including elderberry fruit derivatives, a good rule of thumb is to look for the “USP” or “NF” seal on the label. USP stands for the United States Pharmacopeia and NF for The National Formulary; both are quality-based regulatory bodies.

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Carey Stites is a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor and a Registered Dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition. Carey is currently the Registered Dietitian working with Wellstone in Harker Heights. Contact her at

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