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Can You Take Elderberry During Pregnancy?

Is Elderberry Safe During Pregnancy

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Elderberries, also called elders, are dark purple berries that are native to Europe.

The bark, roots, leaves, flower, and fruit of the elderberry plant are extensively used in traditional medicine. Available in the form of teas, extracts and pills, these berries are primarily known to treat colds, the flu, constipation and many other conditions (1).

But is it safe to eat them during pregnancy? Read this MomJunction post to know whether or not consuming elderberry during pregnancy is a good idea.

Is Elderberry Safe During Pregnancy?

Yes, elderberries are considered to be safe during pregnancy, since there is no data indicating that they have any adverse side effects, drug interactions, and food or nutrient reactions in pregnant women (2).

Black elderberries are also considered safe for consumption and are known to support immune system as dark purple elders do. There are no studies suggesting they have adverse effects during pregnancy.

However, unripe berries are toxic and should be avoided, while the ripened ones should be consumed in moderation.

[ Read: Blueberries During Pregnancy ]

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Health Benefits Of Eating Elderberry During Pregnancy

Elderberries contain significant amounts of vitamins, amino acids, and flavonoids, all of which help in staying healthy and preventing disease.

  1. Promotes respiratory health: Rich in bioflavonoids such as anthocyanins, elderberries can soothe irritation and inflammation in the respiratory tract. Bioflavonoids also have expectorant properties that clear out phlegm and promote respiratory health. Therefore, elderberries aid in clearing sore throat, cough, cold, bronchitis and other respiratory ailments (3).
  1. Boosts immunity: Antibacterial and anti-viral properties of elderberries boost the immune system and help it fight the flu viruses more effectively. Berries improve the production of cytokines, a new class of immune compounds (4).
  1. Strengthens bones: Anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant components in elderberries alleviate pain and soreness of joints. High mineral content in berries promotes bone strength and reduces bone loss (5).
  1. Improves vision: Anthocyanin pigments found in elderberries are nutraceuticals that help maintain vision. They offer protection for eyesight and are usually associated with improving night vision (6).
  1. Improves cardiovascular health: High fiber content in elderberries helps in eliminating bad cholesterol from the body and promotes good cholesterol levels. It prevents the progression of atherosclerosis, minimizes blood pressure and safeguards heart (7).

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Consuming Different Forms Of Elderberry During Pregnancy

Elderberry can be consumed in different forms, some readily available in the market and the others you can make yourself. Whatever you choose, contact your doctor before trying them.

1. Elderberry syrup:

Elderberry syrup

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Elderberry syrup is known to fight cold and flu. It is a great immune boosters and is effective to use during pregnancy on doctor’s advice, especially for cold, flu and other respiratory issues (8).

You can make a simple elderberry syrup at home by combining berries with water and maple syrup or honey. Store it in the refrigerator, and take a spoonful of it every day to keep the infection away (9).

2. Elderberry tea:

Elderberry tea

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You can either use tea bags or one tablespoon of dried berries or flowers in eight ounces of water to make elderberry tea.

3. Elderberry juice:

Elderberry juice

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Choose freshly made juice that is sweet and tangy in taste. Do not consider packaged drinks as they contain too much sugar. According to the American Botanical Council, you can consume eight ounces of expressed elder juice twice a day (for 3 – 5 days) to beat cold and flu symptoms.

4. Elderberry jam:

Elderberry jam

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It is an excellent addition to fresh bread and butter, oatcakes, warm crumpets, rice pudding or Greek yogurt. You may also add it to muffins, pancakes, fruits salads and crumbles.

[ Read: Goji Berries During Pregnancy ]

Simple recipe to make homemade elderberry jam

You will need

  • 700 grams elderberries
  • ½ a lemon’s juice
  • 700 grams caster sugar
  • 600ml jar

How to make

  1. Combine elderberries and lemon juice in a pan and cook over a medium heat.
  2. Once the juice starts to run and boil, simmer the heat and keep for 20 minutes. Take away the layer that forms on the surface.
  3. Add sugar and stir until it dissolves. Boil until it reaches a setting point, which is 105° C. You can check the temperature using a sugar thermometer.
  4. Another alternative is to keep a couple of saucers in the freezer for 10 minutes and slice a spoon of jam to add into the cold saucers. Leave for 10 to 15 seconds and push with your finger. If it forms wrinkles, it has reached the setting point.
  5. Store the jam in a warm, sterilized jar, and close it tightly. Keep the jar in a dark and cool place.

5. Elderberry gummies:

Elderberry gummies

Image: Shutterstock

Gummies are a delicious way to consume the flu-busting antioxidants and the gut-healing properties of the fruit. To make them at home,

You will need

  • 1 cup elderberry syrup
  • 4tbsp unflavored gelatin

How to make

  1. Combine gelatin and syrup in a saucepan, and put over low heat. Whisk it frequently, heat until the gelatin dissolves.
  2. With the use of an eye dropper, transfer the mixture into molds made of silicone. Refrigerate, and allow it to solidify for about 30 minutes.
  3. Remove gummies from the molds, and store them in an airtight jar.

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What Are The Side Effects Of Taking Elderberry While Pregnant?

Ripe and cooked berries are safe to consume. However, you should not eat raw or unripe berries in any form.

  • Raw elderberries contain bitter alkaloids, sambucine, and hydrocyanic acid, which will cause nausea and vomiting. These alkaloids are less in ripe berries, and are destroyed when cooked (10).
  • Another safety concern involves autoimmune diseases. If you are already experiencing lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and multiple sclerosis, taking elderberry stimulates the nervous system, thus intensifying the disease symptoms (11).

Although an amazing berry with medicinal properties, lack of proper research makes elderberry a questionable food to eat during pregnancy. Since it also has a few side effects besides benefits, it should be taken with caution when you are pregnant. If you like the taste of the berry, use it after consulting the doctor and avoid relying on it solely for its medicinal value.

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[ Read: Can You Eat Blackberries While Pregnant ]

Did you eat elderberries when you were pregnant? If yes, share your experiences and also any elderberry recipes you benefited from in the comments section below.

References:

1. European Elder; National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (2016)
2. Tamyra Comeaux; The Definitive Guide to Natural Pregnancy Health; p. 42
3. C. Krawitz et al.; Inhibitory activity of a standardized elderberry liquid extract against clinically-relevant human respiratory bacterial pathogens and influenza A and B viruses; BMC Complement Altern Med (2011)
4. Michael Castleman; The New Healing Herbs: The Essential Guide to More Than 125 of Nature’s Most Potent Herbal Remedies; p. 197
5. L. Badescu et al.; Mechanism by Sambucusnigra Extract Improves Bone Mineral Density in Experimental Diabetes; Evid Based Complement Alternat Med (2012)
6. H. E. Khoo et al.; Anthocyanidins and anthocyanins: colored pigments as food, pharmaceutical ingredients, and the potential health benefits; Food Nutr Res (2017)
7. A. Basu et al.; Berries: emerging impact on cardiovascular health; Nutr Rev (2010)
8. E. Tiralongo et al.; Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial; Nutrients (2016)
9. Common Elderberry; USDA & NRCS (2003)
10. ELDERBERRY; Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (2018)
11. The ABC clinical guide to elder berry (2004)

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Rebecca Malachi

She is a Biotechnologist with a proficiency in areas of genetics, immunology, microbiology, bio-engineering, chemical engineering, medicine, pharmaceuticals to name a few. Her expertise in these fields has greatly assisted her in writing medical and life science articles. With 8+ years of work experience in writing for health and wellness, she is now a full-time contributor for Momjunction.com. She is passionate about giving research-based information to readers in need. Apart from writing, she is a foodie, loves travel, fond of gospel music and enjoys observing nature in silence. Know more about her at: linkedin.com/in/kothapalli-rebecca-35881628
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