Elderberry, also known as elder, has been used for centuries in European countries for its ability to treat respiratory ailments as well as skin abrasions. This shrub may develop up to 30 feet tall and is native to European countries as well as in select portions of Asia. Its flowers and berries are used in preparations for medicinal purposes. Because of its immune enhancing benefits, pregnant women might be tempted to ingest this herb; however, like many herbs, it may not be the safest choice for mother or child.
Elderberry Active Compounds
The primary active compounds within elderberry juice are chemicals known as flavonoids. Flavonoids are plant-specific antioxidants. Researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University say flavonoids may contain anti-allergic, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties. Antioxidants play a vital role in human health, as these compounds counteract damage done through free radicals, which are unbalanced atoms. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports elderberry has not undergone extensive research, so other active compounds may be present, yet not discovered.
Elderberry and Pregnancy
Because elderberry juice may be able to reduce cold and flu symptoms, as well as protect the body from bacterial sinusitis, or sinus infections, pregnant women may lean toward this herbal cocktail to prevent sickness during fetus gestation. But because elderberry juice has not undergone extensive research regarding its safety, the University of Maryland Medical Center says women who are pregnant and breast-feeding should not consume this herb. While UMM Medical Center is against use of elderberry during pregnancy, the American Botanical Council reports in “The ABC Clinical Guide to Elder Berry” that use of elderberry by pregnant women is not suggested solely on the basis of lack of research information. This publication says there is no data suggesting elderberry preparations, including elderberry juice, might have adverse effects during pregnancy or lactation. Thus, elderberry may in fact be safe during pregnancy.
The American Botanical Council suggests consuming 8 oz of expressed elderberry juice twice daily at first sign of cold or flu symptoms. This dosage may be continued three to five days; however, use longer than five days is not advised by the University of Maryland Medical Center or the American Botanical Council.
Considering the lack of research about elderberry juice and pregnancy, discuss use of this herbal cocktail with your physician. While properly prepared elderberry juice has no known side effects or confirmed drug interactions, unripe elderberries are toxic, and may cause vomiting, nausea or diarrhea. Thus, drinking juice of nonripe elderberries could hurt mother and child.
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Elderberry; Steven D. Ehrlich, N.M.D.; December 2009
- The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University; Antioxidant Activities of Flavonoids; Dr. Donald R. Buhler, Dr. Cristobal Miranda; November 2000
- The American Botanical Council; “The ABC Clinical Guide to Elder Berry”; 2004
- Drugs.com; Elderberry; July 2011