What are elderberries?

Elderberries are small, black-purple berries that belong to the sambus tree, also known as the European elderberry or black elder. The berries can be used as a syrup for medicinal purposes, which may have some potential health benefits. Try our simple recipe for elderberry syrup.


Discover our full range of health benefit guides or check out how to pick and cook elderberries. Try our elderberry & almond pie or hedgerow ketchup, and of course our recipe for elderberry syrup.

Nutritional benefits

An 80g portion of the fresh elderberries provides:

  • 28 kcals / 119KJ
  • 0.6g Protein
  • 0.4g Fat
  • 5.9g Carbohydrate
  • 232mg Potassium
  • 22mg Vitamin C

Be aware that if you intend to purchase an elderberry syrup, products will vary according to the brand you choose. Because elderberries are naturally quite tart, many commercial brands or syrup are high in sugar or glucose syrup.

5 main health benefits of elderberry syrup

1. May help to reduce symptoms of the flu

One study of 60 patients administered 15ml elderberry or placebo syrup during the flu season in 1999-2000, and those using elderberry saw their flu symptoms ease four days earlier than those using the placebo.

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2. May help to support a healthy immune system

It may help support a healthy immune system by increasing inflammatory cytokine production – cytokines are a group of proteins that are secreted by specific cells of the immune system.

Find out how to prevent a cold.

3. May help to reduce the risk of chronic disease

Elderberry is naturally high in vitamin C, the body’s most abundant antioxidant, which not only helps reduce the risk of chronic disease, but may also be good for those with high blood pressure, and prevent iron deficiency anaemia.

Learn more about vitamin C and why we need it.

4. May offer some neuroprotective benefits

The dark black-purple colour of the elderberry means it's a good source of compounds known as anthocyanins, which have been shown to protect the brain.

5. May help to improve exercise performance

Elderberry has been shown to improve exercise performance, so this may be also be relevant to those consuming elderberry syrup.

Discover more food tips to boost exercise performance.

How can I buy the best elderberry syrup?

Be aware that some commercial elderberry syrups may also be high in glucose syrup or sugar, as elderberries are naturally quite tart in flavour. Look for brands with less added sugar, do not exceed the recommended dose and consume as part of a balanced diet.

Is elderberry syrup safe for everyone?

Some people may experience allergy to elderberry including possible cross-reactivity for those with allergies to birch pollens.

If you are on prescribed medication including immune suppressants, diuretics or you have an auto-immune condition check with your GP or healthcare professional to establish whether elderberry is appropriate for you.

Enjoyed this? Now read...

The health benefits of blackberries
The health benefits of pomegranate
The health benefits of cherries

This article was last reviewed on 27th August 2021 by Kerry Torrens.

Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.


All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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