• How Much Elderberry Should I Take?

August 31, 2015

How much elderberry should I take?

Norm’s Farms makes both Elderberry Extract and Elderberry Wellness Syrup in addition to a line of delicious elderberry preserves, and we are often asked “How much elderberry should I take”? We provide serving recommendations on our products like all manufacturers of nutritional supplements, but if you have made your own elderberry extract or syrup you may want some advice on how much to take and how often. Our advice is based upon our own experience and the hundreds of research articles we have read over the years, but is no substitute for the advice you should obtain from your health care professional. The following information is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure; it is simply a summary of the literature and our experience.

All products containing elderberry available for purchase on line, in health food and natural remedy stores will provide the recommended serving on the label. Be sure to read the label carefully, and pay particular attention to storage requirements. Elderberry is a highly perishable fruit and, if not preserved in alcohol or syrup, will quickly ferment or spoil. The following advice is for the DIY individual that has made their own elderberry syrup or extract and is looking for serving recommendations.

The Many Uses of Elderberry

Elderberry has been used by traditional cultures throughout the world for a variety of health issues. Recently, molecular biologist Dr. Kevin Curran and his team at EthnoHerbalist recently conducted an honest review of elderberry's medicinal properties, clinical studies that tested elderberry on colds and flu, and the way elderberry interacts with the human immune system. Knowing that Elderberry has been recommended for boosting weakened immune systems, for warding off colds and flu, and for many other health issues including constipation, most people want to know “how much elderberry should I take”?

Many people assume that because elderberry is a fruit the liquid expressed through the extraction process is a juice, and that it can be consumed just like a juice. This is not true. While everyone responds to elderberry differently, some people are quite sensitive to the laxative properties of elderberry and report that a tablespoon of elderberry extract per day works as a laxative for them. Other people may be able to consume up to 2 ounces per day before they experience gastrointestinal symptoms; the point is that elderberry should be consumed by the teaspoon, not by the glass.

If you are interested in adding elderberry to your diet for its immune system boosting properties, a teaspoon of elderberry extract per day is a conservative recommended daily serving. The few studies that have been conducted to determine why elderberry activates the immune system indicate that the anthocyanins in elderberry are associated with greatly increased immune system coordination. One study showed that elderberry boosts the production of immune cytokines. Cytokines act as messengers within the immune system and help to regulate the immune response. Studies need to be done to determine the effects, negative or positive, of long term elderberry use.

If you are interested in elderberry for warding off colds and flu, like all antivirals, elderberry works best if taken at the first signs of a respiratory illness. Elderberry is reported to contain an anti-viral agent called “antivirin” which helps prevent viruses from invading our cells. If you are fighting cold and flu symptoms, a conservative recommendation is to take up to 4 teaspoons per day until symptoms subside.

Studies indicate that elderberry may have diuretic and blood sugar lowering properties, too, so, as with all herbal medicines, if you are considering adding elderberry to your diet, do your research and consult your physician to ensure that elderberry won’t interact with any prescriptions medicines you may already be taking.  We've done some of the research work for you in our summary below. We've also got some great recipe ideas for incorporating elderberry into your diet.  Our favorite is the Elderberry Spritzer.  If you missed elderberry season this year you can always stock up on our Elderberry Extract or Elderberry Wellness Syrup (and get a nice discount when you buy it by the case).

A Summary of the State of the Research

The following chart is excerpted from an article written by the folks at Chamberlin’s Natural Foods.  It does a nice job of discussing the evidence behind some of the purported health benefits of elderberry and the research that still needs to be done.

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. GRADE *
Early research suggests that elder may have antiviral benefits. One study found that elderberry juice may improve flu symptoms such as fever, fatigue, headache, sore throat, cough, and aches, in less than half the usual recovery time of the flu. However, the study was small, and it should be noted that the berries must be cooked to prevent nausea or poisoning. In another study, elderberry appeared to improve cough, fever, headache, mucus discharge, muscle aches, and nasal congestion. More research is needed before firm conclusions can be made. B
Evidence on the use of elder alone for bronchitis is lacking. The combination product Sinupret®, which contains elder, has been used to treat acute bronchitis and sinus infection. There is some evidence that Sinupret® may have benefits for this condition compared to other medications. More information is needed. C
Early study suggests that a combination product containing elder may help treat chronic constipation in as little as two days. More research is needed before firm conclusions can be made. C
Elder has been used in combination with other products to reduce gum disease and inflammation. Significant results were seen four days after treatment. A combination mouthwash containing elder significantly decreased gum disease when used three times daily for 14 days. Further study is needed on the possible effects of elder alone. C
Early study suggests that long-term elderberry use may lack heart health benefits in postmenopausal women. More research is needed in this area. C
Evidence on the use of elder alone as a treatment for high cholesterol is lacking. One study reports that elder may have benefits for people with this condition. However, more research is needed in this area. C
Limited study has looked at elder for sinus infection in humans. Combination products containing elder (such as Sinupret®) have been reported to have benefits when used with antibiotics. Research suggests that such products may help improve swelling, drainage, headache, and nasal congestion. More evidence is needed on the possible benefits of elder alone. C
Elderberry has been studied for possible weight loss benefits. A significant difference has been seen in body weight, blood pressure, and quality of life. However, further study is needed before conclusions may be made. C
* Key to grades A: Strong scientific evidence for this use B: Good scientific evidence for this use C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work) F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work)

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