Babies and kids often suffer from the common cold, which has no cure and its medication is not advised for children below the age of six. This has led parents to look at alternate remedies, one of which is elderberry. This herbal treatment is known to shorten the length of a cold and flu. Elderberry syrup has gained a lot of prominence among American parents, with a lot of people locally making and selling it. However, while it is claimed that elderberries can shorten a common cold or the flu, it is vital for parents to be aware of its suitability for their little ones. Let us see whether elderberries are safe and what are their benefits and risks.
What Is Elderberry?
Elderberry is the common name of Sambucus nigra, a derivation of the shiny, purple berries of the European elder tree, which has long been known as an immunity booster. It is rich in vitamins and nutrients like Vitamin C, dietary fibre, phenolic acids, flavonoids, and anthocyanins. Flavonoids, especially, are known to have strong antioxidant properties that help decrease inflammation and fight off numerous diseases. However, the elderberry bark, seeds, unripe fruit and leaves also contain a form of cyanide, that can be highly toxic for your little one.
Elderberry is now available in many forms, including teas, pills or lozenges. Elderberry for children is popularly given in the form of syrup and gummies. However, while there are a lot of claims about the medicinal potency of these elderberry products for kids, there is not a lot of clinical research that suggests the same.
At What Age Can a Child Take Elderberry?
Elderberry is a natural, traditional remedy that has qualities that may help reduce your child’s common cold or flu. Since the potency of Vitamin C and Zinc contained in the elderberry is low in potency, it can be given to children. Elderberry for toddlers may possibly be safe for upto ten days. However, it is not advised to administer raw elderberry leaves, fruits or flowers as they are harmful to your kids. They contain cyanide-inducing glycosides that are poisonous to humans. Usually, elderberry supplements are made less potent so that children may safely consume them. The effects on continuous use for longer periods of time is not known.
Elderberry products are made less potent so that they may be safely taken by kids. Children from the age of 1 can possibly take elderberry, either in the form of syrup or gummies, depending upon the dosage. Different dosages will be prescribed for children of different ages, depending upon the age of the child. It is thus important to look at the instructions for use provided on the elderberry product you purchase.
Are There Any Benefits of Elderberry for Children?
With a shift in lifestyle towards natural and healthy remedies, rather than chemical ones, elderberries have gained a lot of prominences. Experts say that elderberry, due to its abundance of vitamins and nutrients like Vitamin C, dietary fibre, phenolic acids, flavonoids, and anthocyanins, is good for the immune system and may reduce inflammation. Elderberry has been known to be a useful remedy for the flu and common cold. However, its effectiveness as a treatment for heart diseases, cholesterol, lung disease, gum disease, cancer, AIDS, nerve pain, toothache, obesity, hay fever, chronic fatigue syndrome, and other such conditions has not been sufficiently researched and proven. Elderberry doesn’t act as a cure for any of these illnesses or prevents them but rather reduces their symptoms.
There have not been any large clinical trials that can prove the ability of elderberries to help with these diseases, only peer-reviewed studies have been conducted that have shown that elderberries may improve health. One study conducted in Israel in 1995 with 27 Influenza B patients showed that a kind of elderberry syrup called Sambucol was very effective in improving their symptoms. In 2004, a study of 60 patients of influenza A or B were shown to have reduced symptoms after being administered elderberry syrup. In 2009, a study of 60 people with the flu was shown to have reduced symptoms after consuming doses of elderberry syrup. Conclusive studies on kids have not been conducted yet.
Elderberry is said to have antiviral properties and it is widely accepted that elderberry helps in reducing the duration and symptoms of a common cold in kids and with few side effects. There have also been studies about whether elderberry is an effective cure for the flu and evidence has shown that it is at least as effective as Tamiflu. However, it is not a substitute for flu vaccines. You can give elderberries to your kids in the form of syrups or children’s elderberry gummies or elderberry vitamins for kids. Be sure to read the recommended dosage of each product.
How Much Elderberry Is Safe for Babies and Kids
Elderberry products like syrups and vitamins should ideally be given to children at the time of cold or flu. There is no universal standard of elderberry dosage for kids as every supplement may be different. Elderberry gummies can be taken by kids as young as 2-3 years. Elderberry syrup for babies is made less potent, especially in Vitamin C and Zinc, so that it may be safely consumed by kids. Children between the ages of 1-6 years can take 5-10ml of elderberry syrup twice a day. Children between the age of 7-12 years can take around 10-15ml twice a day. For daily maintenance, children between the ages of 1-6 years can take 5ml and between 7-12 years can take around 10ml daily. All manufacturers will provide specific details about safe dosages along with their product so you can follow that and avoid any health hazards for your kids.
It is also important to administer these dosages to your children under the direction and supervision of a paediatrician. There are some elderberry supplements that are suitable for adults and others that are made specifically for children. Identifying the right commercial products is vital to your children’s’ safety.
Is Elderberry FDA-Approved?
Since the effects of elderberries, either positive or negative, have not been thoroughly researched, they are also not approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is only regulated as a supplement and not a drug. The FDA does not approve supplements prior to sale and thus companies manufacturing them are solely responsible for their safety and labelling. It is thus advisable to use commercial elderberry products that are manufactured and sold by reputable companies that follow CGMPs, which are the current good manufacturing practices. These require companies to adhere to certain standards for sourcing and production. Since elderberries are lethal and poisonous if not administered correctly, it is necessary to take a good amount of precautions to protect the health of your little ones.
Risks and Side Effects
Since there are no conclusive clinical studies on the effectiveness of elderberry or its risks on children and adults, it is necessary to take certain precautions. Consuming raw elderberry is extremely dangerous, for toddlers and adults alike. Raw elderberry leaves, fruits or flowers contain cyanide-inducing glycosides that are poisonous to humans. Prohibit toddlers from eating raw elderberries, especially if they are unripe or green or red in colour. Tea made using elderberry leaves is also not recommended for children neither are homemade elderberry products like syrups. They can cause severe diarrhoea, vomiting, dizziness, nausea and weakness. If you see signs of such elderberry poisoning in your child, be sure to immediately contact a poison control centre. Only use commercial products that have been tested and prescribed by a physician.
Short-term use of elderberries consumed in the prescribed dosage is seldom associated with serious side effects. There are however no conclusive studies to show the effects or benefits of long-term consumption of elderberries. The common side effects of elderberry are weakness, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, stupor and numbness. There may also be instances where elderberry supplements can cause allergic reactions in children. If your child has diabetes or an autoimmune disorder, it is advisable to not give them elderberries in any form. Elderberries have been known to interfere with the functioning of diabetes medications, laxatives, asthma drugs and corticosteroids.
While elderberries are a century-old traditional remedy, they can be fatal if not administered with precaution. It is important to consult a physician regarding the dosage and the kind of product that you give to your child. If done correctly, elderberries can help manage the symptoms of the common flu and the flu. You can give elderberries to your child in various forms. Commercial products like syrups, vitamin supplements and gummies are being produced specifically for children with low quantities of Vitamin C and Zinc.