Elderberry Drops: Benefits and Risks
The world of natural remedies is constantly changing – but elderberry has been used for centuries to strengthen the immune system, relieve pain, and more.
Elderberry drops, a liquid supplement made from the berries grown on the European elder tree, are taken orally using a syringe dropper. They are frequently used to alleviate symptoms of cold and flu, as well as to promote overall health and well-being.
Before you decide if taking elderberry drops is right for you, you should thoroughly understand the benefits and risks associated with them.
Benefits of Taking Elderberry Drops
Most people would be surprised by how many benefits a tiny droplet of elderberry possesses! Research suggests that elderberry supplements could reduce the length and severity of the flu. It’s a powerful natural remedy whose effects are on par with conventional pharmaceutical options, such as Tamiflu.
Elderberry supplements may also be effective against constipation. Like other natural laxatives, such as senna, elderberry contains a compound called anthraquinone that stimulates contractions of the bowel wall known as peristalsis. These contractions reduce the time it takes stool to pass through the digestive tract.
People without medical ailments can also benefit from supplementation with elderberry drops. Elderberry is rich in antioxidants, including vitamin C. If you’re not into drinking orange juice at breakfast, you might benefit from taking elderberry drops instead.
Elderberry is also high in cancer-fighting flavonoids. While flavonoids require further study to fully determine their cancer-fighting potential, initial research shows that they may promote the death, or apoptosis, of tumor cells.
Risks of Taking Elderberry Drops
For every study illustrating the benefits of elderberry, there is another to demonstrate its ineffectiveness. Keep these risks in mind before taking elderberry drops:
Elderberry drops are safest when taken in the short term. Taking elderberry for a maximum of five days at a time – for example, during the early days of illness -- appears to have few side effects, but more research is needed to determine the safety of taking elderberry drops long-term.
Many of the risks of taking elderberry drops come from the need for more research to confirm their effectiveness and assess their side effects against various conditions. As a result, children, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and anyone with an autoimmune disease should consult their doctor before supplementing with elderberry drops.
It’s also a good idea to consult your doctor if you take any other medications, as elderberry drops could potentially decrease the efficacy of other medications when taken alongside them. You should not take elderberry drops if you take any of the following medications:
- Diuretics. Diuretics encourage your body to get rid of excess water. Elderberry may have a diuretic effect as well, meaning that mixing elderberry drops with a diuretic could lead to dangerous levels of dehydration.
- Diabetes medications. Elderberry drops may lower your blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes, taking elderberry could raise your risk of developing hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.
- Laxatives. Because of the potential laxative effects of elderberry drops, you should not combine elderberry drops with other laxative medications.
- Theophylline. Some people take a drug called theophylline for asthma or other respiratory conditions. Taken together, elderberry drops interact with theophylline, which could make theophylline less effective.
- Corticosteroids and biologic agents. These immune system medications are used to treat autoimmune diseases and to prevent rejection after organ transplant. Because both affect the immune system, it’s unclear how these medications could interact with elderberry drops. Anyone taking these drugs should avoid taking elderberry drops.
Elderberry drops have the powerful potential to strengthen our immune health, reduce the length and severity of cold and flu, relieve constipation, and perhaps even to fight cancer. As long as you are aware of the risks of taking elderberry, it is generally safe for most people to supplement with elderberry drops in the short term, such as when you are sick with the flu. Avoid taking elderberry drops if you have any risk factors listed above – and as always, make sure to consult with your doctor before adding any supplements to your daily routine!
Abotaleb, M. et. al. (2019). Flavonoids in Cancer and Apoptosis. Cancers, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11010028
Cirillo, C, Capasso, R. (2015). Constipation and botanical medicines: an overview. Phytotherapy Research, 29(10). https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.5410
Ehrlich, S. (2016, February 2). Elderberry. Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. http://pennstatehershey.adam.com/content.aspx?productid=107&pid=33&gid=002880
Sidor, A, Gramza-Michalowska, A. (2015). Advanced research on the antioxidant and health benefit of elderberry (Sambucus nigra) in food – a review. Journal of Functional Foods, 18(941). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jff.2014.07.012
Torabian, G. et. al. (2019). Anti-influenza activity of elderberry (Sambucus nigra). Journal of Functional Foods, 54(353). http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jff.2019.01.031