Elderberry is the purple fruit of the European black elderberry shrub (Sambucus niger). It’s the only part of the plant that’s edible: the branches, twigs, leaves, and even the seeds contain a cyanide-like substance that can cause serious side effects. Unripe and uncooked berries also cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. This is one reason to buy your elderberry gummies from reputable sources—and if you’re making your own, be very sure to use only fully ripe and fully cooked berries.
Regular elderberry gummies are not vegan, so read the labels carefully. Most gummies are made using gelatin, which, of course, is not at all vegan. However, they can also be made with agar agar powder, which is a vegan product. Check the ingredients list before you buy, and you can find a vegan product fairly easily. Havasu and MyKind are two brands that make vegan elderberry gummies, but you can find others if you look.
Elderberry has been shown, in a few studies, to reduce the length of time and severity of symptoms of the common cold. In one Australian study from 2016, long-haul airline passengers who took elderberry daily starting ten days before their flight and for five days after their return had fewer sick days off than passengers who didn’t take elderberry. You do need to begin treatment either before you show symptoms of a cold or within 48 hours of the first symptoms. The fruit may also prevent you from catching the influenza virus if you take it daily, although there is no evidence it prevents the common cold.
Another use for elderberry is for constipation, as one of its effects is to prevent the large intestine from reabsorbing so much water. This produces a looser stool and increases intestinal pressure, which encourages the intestine to contract (peristalsis) and produce a normal bowel movement. Many doctors also recommend it for stress, joint and muscle pain, headaches, breathing difficulties, fever, and minor skin conditions. Elderberry is classified as a diuretic, which means it also stimulates the kidneys. Of course, this means you need to be careful and not use elderberry if you are taking a prescription diuretic medication. Check with your doctor before you start taking elderberry.
Elderberry is also not recommended for children, pregnant women, or nursing mothers. This is simply because there is not enough scientific study showing that the drug is safe for these patients. Many people feel that all herbal medications are “natural,” and thus have no side effects. However, herbs are medications and all medications do have side effects. Elderberry, in particular, contains a cyanide-like substance that may be unsafe for children, infants, and the unborn.
For adults, elderberry is a good source of vitamin C (52.2 milligrams per cup of berries) and dietary fiber (10.2 grams per cup). The berries also contain 26.7 grams of carbs, 1 gram of protein, and only 0.7 grams of fat. They are packed with antioxidants called anthocyanins. These reduce or slow damage to your cells’ DNA by the unstable molecules (called “free radicals”) which are produced by your body in response to environmental stressors. Elderberries can help boost your immune system and reduce inflammation. They help with inflammation by reducing the production of one of your body’s signaling molecules, nitric oxide. This is the molecule that triggers inflammation in response to disease or injury. Inflammation, the redness and swelling you see after an injury, can actually help by immobilizing the injured area and drawing heat to help with healing. However, when this becomes a chronic condition, inflammation can be a problem. Elderberry may help to treat this chronic process, reducing pain and swelling.
People have been using elderberry to treat illness for over 400 years. In fact, Hippocrates himself, the “Father of Medicine,” called the plant his “medicine chest.” However, if you experience a rash or breathing trouble after taking elderberry, it may mean you are allergic to the plant, so don’t take any more. In this case, you should alert your doctor as well, so they can note your new allergy in your medical profile for the future.
Elderberry gummies, for adults, can help reduce the length of time and severity of cold and flu symptoms, and may reduce pain and inflammation. It can also be useful for constipation or kidney problems, and for minor skin conditions (if applied externally). There aren’t a lot of good scientific studies on the herb but taking a gummy a day probably won’t hurt anything, unless you have a compromised immune system or are taking medications that interact with elderberry, like diuretics or corticosteroids. Always check with your doctor before starting any herbal medication.
The only condition for your elderberry gummies is that they are made using agar agar powder rather than gelatin. This will result in vegan gummies that you can safely enjoy.