Is It Safe to Give Elderberry for Infants & Children?

Elderberry for Babies and Kids – Is It Safe?

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 for kids 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 their suitability for their little ones. Let us see whether elderberries are safe, what are their benefits and risks and everything else you need to know about elderberry for babies and kids.

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.

Is Elderberry Safe for Babies and Kids?

Safely incorporating elderberries into children’s diets involves moderate consumption of cooked, fresh, or dry ripe elderberries (1). Uncooked ripe elderberries and unripe elderberries may pose risks due to the presence of lectins, hydrocyanic acid, and sambucine, which could lead to gastrointestinal disturbance and toxicity (2). Cooking the berries deactivates these compounds, ensuring their safety for consumption.

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.

So, wondering if there are any elderberry benefits for kids? 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

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.

Precautions to Take While Giving Elderberry to Children

Introducing elderberry to children can be a health-conscious decision, but precautions should be observed to ensure their well-being. It’s crucial to follow specific guidelines to mitigate potential risks associated with the consumption of elderberry products in young ones (3).

1. Source Elderberries From Reliable Retailers

Obtain fresh or dried ripe elderberries from a trusted store to ensure quality. Fresh elderberries, being perishable, should be used promptly to maintain freshness.

2. Cook Elderberries Before Consumption

Always cook ripe elderberries before eating. Boil the berries for 20-30 minutes on low heat or follow specific cooking instructions provided in recipes, such as those for jams or cakes.

3. Consume Cooked Elderberries in Moderation

Avoid excessive intake of cooked elderberries to prevent potential stomach upset. The high fiber content in the berries may contribute to this effect.

4. Thoroughly Remove Leaves and Stalks

Before incorporating elderberries into culinary preparations, ensure the proper removal of leaves and stalks. These parts may contain harmful compounds that may persist even after cooking (4).

5. Consult Experts Before Administering Supplements

Refrain from giving children elderberry dietary supplements or medicinal forms like gummies or tea without seeking professional advice (5). Dosage and usage methods may vary based on the child’s age and intended purpose, necessitating expert consultation.


1. Can Babies Be Allergic to Elderberries?

Yes, babies can be allergic to elderberries. It’s important to introduce elderberries cautiously and monitor for signs of allergic reactions, such as rash, itching, swelling, or difficulty breathing. If any adverse reactions occur, discontinue use and seek medical attention.

2. Are Elderberries a Choking Hazard for Babies?

Yes, elderberries can pose a choking hazard for babies, especially if they are not properly prepared. Ensure that elderberries are cooked, mashed, or processed to a safe consistency before offering them to infants. Always supervise babies during feeding to reduce the risk of choking.

3. Can Elderberries Impact a Baby’s Stool?

Yes, elderberries can impact a baby’s stool. The natural compounds in elderberries, such as fiber and anthocyanins, may cause changes in stool color and consistency. It’s generally a benign effect, but if there are concerns or persistent changes, consult with a pediatrician for guidance.

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.


1. Assessment report on Sambucus nigra L., fructus; European Medicines Agency;; January 2014

2. The First International Symposium on Elderberry; University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry;

3. Ulbricht. C, Basch. E, Cheung. L, Goldberg. H; An Evidence-Based Systematic Review of Elderberry and Elderflower  (Sambucus nigra) by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (Journal of Dietary Supplements); ResearchGate;; January 2014

4. Poisoning from Elderberry Juice — California; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;

5. Can elderberry treat the flu?; UC Irvine School of Medicine;

6. Charlebois. D; Elderberry as a Medicinal Plant; Purdue University;

7. Zakay-Rones. Z, Thom. E, Wollan. T, Wadstein. J; Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections (Journal of International Medical Research); National Library of Medicine;; March 2004

Also Read:

Safe Herbs for Infants and Kids
Giving Enema for Infants and Children
Essential Oils for Infants and Kids
Should You Give Cold and Cough Medicines to Babies and Children?

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Ruchelle has a vast experience working with clients in hospitality, health and wellness, entertainment, real estate, and retail. She aims to utilise her learnings to deliver quality content which will in turn help drive sales and customer engagement.