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Uses of Elderberry Extract

author image Emily Creasy
Emily Creasy began writing professionally in 2010. As a registered and licensed dietitian her writing focuses on weight loss, disease-specific diets and diet-friendly cooking. She holds a Bachelor of Science in human nutrition, foods and exercise from Virginia Tech and a Master of Science in dietetics from James Madison University.
Uses of Elderberry Extract
A close-up of an elderberry blossom. Photo Credit: ClaraNila/iStock/Getty Images

Elderberry, or Sambucus nigra, has been used for centuries to help with inflammation, cough, cold, and flu, and as a diuretic, laxative, and emetic to help eliminate the body of toxins. The berries can also be prepared and eaten in syrups, wines, and pies. The flowers and berries of the plant contain flavonoids and are used for their purported antioxidant and immune system enhancing qualities. Scientific studies have been performed to attempt to verify their effectiveness with regard to flu, bacterial sinusitis, bronchitis and cholesterol lowering abilities. There is no clinical evidence to support dosage recommendations at this time so be sure to discuss the use of elderberry extract with your doctor before you try it.

Stimulate the Immune System

The antioxidant properties in elderberry extract may help to reduce symptoms of flu, improve cough, headaches, and fever, as well as reduce excessive sinus mucus secretion in sinusitis. According to Natural, clinical trials done in Norway and Israel showed a more rapid recovery time from flu using elderberry extract when compared to the prescribed medicine Tamiflu. They reported that the flavonoids in elderberry extract helped stimulate the immune system. Anthocyanins in the berries had an anti-inflammatory effect, reducing aches, pains, and fever.

Antiviral compiled studies that were performed using elderberry extract against the herpes virus and HIV. Elderberry extract was able to stop replication of the herpes virus and reduce the infectivity of HIV. The National Institutes of Health states that more research is needed to prove this beneficial relationship.


The flavonoids and anthocyanins in elderberry extract may help to reduce inflammation and decrease the damaging effects of free radicals. There have been studies on animals to attempt to verify this beneficial relationship, however the National Institutes of Health reports that more research is needed to clearly determine whether this effect is seen in humans.

Lower Cholesterol

A study by Murkovic, Abuja, and Bergmann found small improvements in cholesterol levels in groups treated with elderberry extract. Youdim, Martin, and Joseph also found that elderberry extract may play a role in reducing LDL cholesterol. The National Institutes of Health states that additional research is needed before a firm conclusion can be reached and discourages the use of elderberry extract alone in the treatment of high cholesterol. Notify your doctor if you are interested in using elderberry extract to aid in treating high cholesterol.

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