Elderberry For Kids: Is It Safe, Benefits, Side Effects And Precautions

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In the past few decades, the medicinal use of elderberry for kids has gained popularity. It is used to treat common ailments such as cold, indigestion, flu, etc. Elderberries are bluish-purple in color and are highly nutritious. They may be consumed in several forms, and the most common forms are jams, cordial, juice, and pie (1).

Elderberry is also used in several dietary supplements and medicinal products. However, it is vital to check the product’s safety for children before serving them to children.

Read about the benefits, potential risks, and precautions to follow while using elderberries for children.

In This Article

Is Elderberry Safe For Children?

Consult a pediatrician before trying elderberry for children.
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Moderate consumption of cooked, fresh or dry ripe elderberries is safe for children. However, uncooked ripe elderberries and unripe elderberries could be harmful. Elderberries naturally contain lectinsiXProteins commonly found in plant-based foods that play a role in cell-signaling and immune processes , hydrocyanic acid, and sambucine that may lead to gastrointestinal disturbance and toxicity (2) (3). Cooking the berries renders these compounds inactive, making them safe for consumption.

Nevertheless, it is advisable to consult a pediatrician before giving elderberries to children to make sure it does not affect their overall wellness. You must also consult a doctor before trying elderberry dietary supplements and medicinal products since they are not FDA-approved, meaning their safety for children is not fully known.

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Seeds of raw or dried elderberries are toxic. Cooking destroys poisonous substances in elderberries, making them safe to eat (4).

When Can Children Consume Elderberry?

There is no recommended age for elderberry consumption among children. Most children begin consuming cooked elderberry products, such as jam, by the age of one year. However, it may not be the case with every child, hence consulting a pediatrician is advisable.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) advises against the use of elderberry dietary supplements or herbal products for children under 18 years of age (4). If you wish to use these products, consult your doctor or an alternative medicine expert.

Possible Benefits Of Elderberry

Elderberries are rich in several nutrients, such as dietary fiber, vitamin C, calcium, potassium, and antioxidants, such as flavonols, anthocyaninsiXPigments found in plant-based foods that possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties , and phenolic acids. Thus, the consumption of elderberries may offer the following health benefits (5) (6) (7).

  1. Healthy bowel movement by enhancing gastric motility, which is necessary to keep constipation at bay. Research highlights elderberry’s laxative effects, which is why it is commonly used for constipation treatment in herbal and traditional medicine.
  2. Robust immunity by offering antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. These properties are essential to fighting ailments and maintaining overall health. It is why elderberry herbal products, such as syrups and tincturesiXA medicinal solution prepared by dissolving a drug or extract in an alcohol , are prevalent in alternative medicine to treat conditions such as the common cold and flu and strengthen the immune system.

Lisa, a mother of two, attests to homemade elderberry syrup’s effectiveness in fighting cold and flu. She says, “Last year, when Fauna came down with the flu, she took a couple of tablespoons on the first day, and it zapped the fever and all symptoms within 24 hours! Usually, when Fauna gets sick, she is sick for three to five days (i).”

Elderberry is essential to fight ailments and maintain overall health.
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Elderberries are also believed to maintain cardiovascular and ocular health over time, although more research is needed to prove these benefits for children (7).

What Are The Side Effects Of Elderberry?

Elderberry allergy may cause itching in the throat.
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Elderberries may cause the following side effects in some children (8).

  1. Allergy: Elderberry allergy is rare but possible. Its symptoms may emerge immediately after touching or ingesting elderberry or a dietary product containing elderberry. Some of the common symptoms of elderberry allergy are itching or swelling of the mouth, face, lip, tongue, and throat. Children allergic to plants of the Caprifoliaceae (honeysuckle) family may show cross-reactive allergy to elderberries.
  2. Drug interaction: Elderberry fruit and products could cross-react with immunosuppressantsiX Drugs or agents that suppress the immune system function and help treat certain autoimmune conditions , blood pressure medicines, and antidiabetic drugsiXA class of medications that help control blood sugar levels (9). If your child is on any medications, consult a pediatrician before feeding elderberry or its products to your child.

Besides these effects, ingestion of raw (uncooked) ripe or unripe elderberries may lead to severe gastrointestinal discomfort, including symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting. Ingestion of too many uncooked elderberries may also lead to toxicity, affecting the nervous system adversely.  

Precautions To Take While Feeding Elderberry

Always cook elderberries before consumption.
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Here are some precautionary steps that can ensure the safe consumption of elderberries among children (8).

  1. Purchase fresh or dried ripe elderberries from a reputable store. Fresh elderberries are highly perishable and need to be used immediately.
  2. Always cook ripe elderberries before consumption. You may boil the berries for 20-30 minutes on low heat. You may also follow the instructions of cooking as per the recipe for a dish, such as jam or cake.
  3. Do not serve too many cooked elderberries as excess consumption may lead to an upset stomach. This effect is due to the berries’ high fiber content.
  4. Remove elderberry leaves and stalk properly before using them for culinary preparations. The stalk and leaves could contain harmful compounds, which may not neutralize even after cooking (9).
  5. Do not give your children elderberry dietary supplements or medicinal preparations, such as elderberry gummies or elderberry tea, without consulting an expert. Their dosage and method of use may vary depending on the child’s age and intent of use.

protip_icon Quick tip
Avoid using elderberry products that contain other herbs or vitamins, as they may cause side effects (4).

Elderberry is a nutritious fruit that must be consumed ripe and well-cooked. There are several elderberry products available in the market, such as elderberry jams and syrup. You can feed your children elderberries as part of a healthy, well-balanced diet. Although elderberry extracts are being used for the treatment of colds and flu, the research is still preliminary.

Elderberry for kids is considered a rich source of antioxidants, vitamins, and fibers. But giving your children unripe or uncooked elderberry is not advisable. Although there are no age restrictions for giving elderberry to children, consulting about it with a pediatrician might help avoid any possible complications. You might add elderberry to your child’s daily diet for them to absorb all its benefits, but using elderberry dietary supplements or medicinal products might not be safe without consulting an expert.

Infographic: Safety Tips On Feeding Elderberry To Children

With the rise in the use of herbal remedies, elderberry is becoming popular thanks to its immune-boosting and laxative properties. However, it also has a tendency to become potentially allergenic. So, check out the infographic below to learn about the safety measures to take while feeding elderberries to your children.

how to safely feed elderberries to children (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is elderberry an antiviral?

Several studies have shown that elderberries exhibit antiviral activity, and their extracts could be effective against herpesiX Viral infection marked by the formation of sores and blisters in and around the mouth and genital regions simplex virus and influenzaiXA viral respiratory tract infection presenting with symptoms such as fever, body aches, and sore throat virus (10).

2. Can elderberries make my children gain weight?

There is no scientific evidence to back up this information. On the contrary, studies have shown that elderberry supplements could aid in weight loss when included in a diet (11).

3. Can elderberries cause seizuresiXSudden and abnormal surges of electrical activity in the brain characterized by jerking body movements and loss of consciousness ?

There is no research to prove this statement. On the other hand, a few animal-based studies have shown that elderberries may play a role in treating epilepsy (12).

Key Pointers

  • Cooked, dried, and ripe elderberries are considered safe for consumption by children.
  • These berries help improve the digestion ability and immunity of kids.
  • Dietary or medicinal supplements for elderberry should only be given after consulting with a doctor or nutritionist.
Elderberry For Kids_illustration

Image: Stable Diffusion/MomJunction Design Team

Are you thinking about giving your kid elderberry? Hold on! Check out this video before to know the potential benefits of it and know whether if it is the right choice for your family.

Personal Experience: Source


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Common Elderberry Sambucus nigra L. ssp. canadensis (L.) R. Bolli; USDA
  2. The First International Symposium on Elderberry; Center For Agroforestry
  3. Assessment report on Sambucus nigra L. Fructus; European Medicines Agency
  4. Can elderberry treat the flu?; CHOC
  5. Elderberry as a Medicinal Plant; Purdue University
  6. Karolina Młynarczyk et al.; Bioactive properties of Sambucus nigra L. as a functional ingredient for food and pharmaceutical industry; NCBI
  7. Arpita Basu et al.; Berries: emerging impact on cardiovascular health; NCBI
  8. Catherine Ulbricht et al.; An Evidence-Based Systematic Review of Elderberry and Elderflower ( Sambucus nigra ) by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration; Reasearchgate
  9. Poisoning from Elderberry Juice — California; CDC
  10. Z Zakay-Rones et al., (2004); Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections; NCBI
  11. Cosima Chrubasik et al. (2008); An observational study and quantification of the actives in a supplement with Sambucus nigra and Asparagus officinalis used for weight reduction; NCBI
  12. R Ataee et al., (2016); Anticonvulsant activities of Sambucus nigra; NCBI
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