What Is Elderberry Fruit Extract?

What Is Elderberry Fruit Extract?

This is part of our ongoing series helping consumers better understand chemicals, chemistry, and product formulations. We translate the science, bust the myths, and give you an honest assessment, so you can make informed choices for your family!


Elderberry Fruit Extract (Sambucus nigra)

What it is:

Elderberry is a large deciduous shrub with delicate, white blossoms and clusters of small berries that start green and turn to red and then a deep purple, blue, or black when they’re ripe. Once ripe, the berry clusters are hand-picked, frozen (for easier separation of the berries from the clusters), thawed, and processed to create the concentrated extract.

What it does:

While the elderberry fruit and flowers are both used in wines, juices, jellies, jams, syrups, pies, and more, our interest is in the health benefits of the extract. Black elderberry has been used medicinally for hundreds (and perhaps thousands) of years and its benefits are far reaching. From ancient folk medicine to modern day medical research, elderberries have been known to:

  • Treat a wide variety of illnesses including stomach ache, the common cold, fever, congestion, sore throat, diarrhea, hay fever, and rheumatism;
  • Effectively fight pathogenic bacteria and flu viruses;
  • Enhance immunity through probiotic effects and antioxidant properties (which are even stronger than more lauded antioxidant powerhouses such as cranberries and blueberries);
  • Provide possible chemopreventive properties (although inhibition of cancer cell growth was shown to be weak); and
  • Block HIV1 infection and potentially have additive effects with existing HIV drugs.

That little berry sure packs a big punch!

Why we use it:

We love natural ingredients that are effective, safe, easy to source, and easy to process into a commercial product. It really doesn’t get much better! With all of the health-promoting properties listed above, it was a no-brainer to include this beneficial berry in our Kid’s Immunity Boost and adult Immunity Defense.

Why we’re featuring it today:

Once we learn how amazing elderberries are, there’s a natural temptation to grow our own, pick it in the wild, or otherwise procure them to make our own syrups and tinctures. Even though we’re big fans of DIY, we have to remember that not all elderberries are safe. Actually, most contain varying levels of a chemical that turns into cyanide, a highly toxic poison. Without understanding what type of elderberry you’re using or knowing safe preparation, you could be putting yourself or your family at risk.

According to the University of Maryland Medical center, “The leaves, seeds and bark of this tree may cause poisonous effects if consumed, and so can eating elderberries that are unripe or not cooked thoroughly. Ingesting any of these substances can lead to gastrointestinal effects including abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting and severe diarrhea, as explained by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Other possible toxic effects include dizziness, headache, weakness, rapid heart rate and seizures.”

Sambucus nigra is the most commonly used elderberry for foods, drinks, and medicines because it’s considered non-toxic. Still, preparation precautions are always encouraged.

We only use sambucus nigra that’s been safely processed for our formulas!

Still have questions about elderberry fruit extract? Let us know in the comments and we’ll do our best to find you an answer!


  • Charlebois, D. (2007). Elderberry as a medicinal plant. Issues in New Crops and New Uses. ASHS Press, Alexandria, VA, 284-292.
  • Frøkiær, H., Henningsen, L., Metzdorff, S. B., Weiss, G., Roller, M., Flanagan, J., ... & Ibarra, A. (2012). Astragalus root and elderberry fruit extracts enhance the IFN-β stimulatory effects of Lactobacillus acidophilus in murine-derived dendritic cells. PloS one, 7(10), e47878.

Zakay-Rones, Z., Varsano, N., Zlotnik, M., Manor, O., Regev, L., Schlesinger, M., & Mumcuoglu, M. (1995). Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 1(4), 361-369.

We aim to provide you with the most honest and credible information possible. This article was reviewed for accuracy by The Honest Team and was written based on trusted sources that are linked at the bottom of the article.