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 is the best way to use elderberry? ›

One of the best ways to use elderberries is to make them into a syrup or cordial, to make delicious fruity drinks and co*cktails (such as this Elderberry Kir Royale). You can also leave the berries to infuse their flavour into spirits – Elderberry gin is particularly tasty.

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.

What is the healthiest way to consume elderberry? ›

There are several elderberry supplement options and preparations, such as gummies, lozenges, syrups and teas, but the most popular and best way to consume elderberry is in syrup form.

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 boiling elderberries destroy vitamin C? ›

Elderberries contain vitamin C, but much of it is destroyed by heat. Adding lemon juice provides an additional vitamin C boost to the syrup.

Why does cooking elderberries make them safe? ›

Elderberries should always be cooked and processed before they're consumed. Unripened, raw elderberries can release toxins into your body. Even ripe berries can contain trace amounts of cyanide, so you must cook elderberries before consumption.

When not to use elderberry? ›

"Autoimmune diseases" such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), or other conditions: Elderberry might cause the immune system to become more active. This could increase the symptoms of autoimmune diseases.

How do you remove cyanide from elderberries? ›

After gathering your elderberries, rinse them thoroughly under running water. This will help remove any dirt or tiny creatures that may have hitched a ride. Next, you need to cook the elderberries to remove the cyanide. Cooking elderberries breaks down their cyanogenic glycosides, thus making them safe to consume.

How many days in a row can you take elderberry? ›

Elderberry syrups and supplements made from reputable companies can be taken daily, even multiples times daily. Elderberry products, like Sambucol Black Elderberry Syrup and Sambucol Black Elderberry Gummies, are made from elderberry fruits. That means you're taking in a highly concentrated source of fruit.

Can elderberry raise 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.

Who Cannot take elderberry? ›

People who have an allergy to elder pollen might react to elderberry supplements. If you have diabetes, multiple sclerosis, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis, talk to your doctor before taking elderberry.

Can elderberry cause high blood pressure? ›

Promotes heart health

Elderberries may be beneficial for the heart, as they have been associated with positive effects on blood pressure; the anthocyanin content increases the release of nitric oxide—which helps widen the blood vessels and improves blood flow, leading to a decrease in blood pressure.

Is it OK to take elderberry everyday? ›

Elderberries offer excellent nutrition that contains antioxidants and vitamin C, which can boost the immune system among other benefits. Yes, you can take elderberry supplements daily, even three to four times a day. However, you should not take more than the recommended daily dose.

How do you remove toxins from elderberries? ›

The uncooked berries, leaves, bark, and roots of the elderberry plant contain the chemicals lectin and cyanide, which can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Cooking the berries and seeds will remove the cyanide.

Does elderberry help if you are already sick? ›

Elderberry is marketed mostly for immune support. Some research suggests it reduces the severity and duration of symptoms associated with the flu or common cold. However, it does not prevent infections or illnesses. There is limited data on the uses of elderberry other than viral infection symptom management.

Can I eat raw elderberries? ›

When uncooked, elderberries contain a toxic substance that can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, so any preparation of elderberries you use should be cooked. Commercial preparations of elderberry such as syrups and lozenges don't contain this substance and are generally recognized as safe for that reason.


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