Science has not studied elderberry and children
Science has not studied elderberry and children

By Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD, Pediatrician

Medical science has neither evaluated the efficacy nor the safety of elderberry supplementation in children.  To-date, there have been no clinical studies of elderberry usage in children.

I searched for data about elderberry use in childhood in the following databases: Google Scholar, Lactmed, PubMed, Trip Database and Europe PMC covering the period 1984 to present.  The most recent articles mentioning children are from 2013 and 2014.1European Medicines Agency, Assessment report on Sambucus nigra L., fructus, 2013 retrieved from http://www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/Herbal_-_HMPC_assessment_report/2013/04/WC500142245.pdf 2Ulbricht, C, Basch, E, Cheung L et al., An Evidence-Based Systematic Review of Elderberry and Elderflower (Sambucus nigra)by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration, J of Dietary Suppl, 2014 retrieved  The 2013 and 2014 references were a systematic review of research from 1970 to 2013. No clinical studies of children were noted in both review articles.  There are no clinical studies in the scientific literature involving children from 2014 to present

Cooked elderberries are made into jams, pies, and wine and are thus safe as food. Raw elderberry can cause nausea and vomiting. The leaves, branches, and flowers contain a chemical that is poisonous.1European Medicines Agency, Assessment report on Sambucus nigra L., fructus, 2013 retrieved from http://www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/Herbal_-_HMPC_assessment_report/2013/04/WC500142245.pdf

Elderberry extract and juice are sold as dietary supplements either as a pure supplement or in combination with other ingredients.

There are limited studies of elderberry in adults.1European Medicines Agency, Assessment report on Sambucus nigra L., fructus, 2013 retrieved from http://www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/Herbal_-_HMPC_assessment_report/2013/04/WC500142245.pdf 2Ulbricht, C, Basch, E, Cheung L et al., An Evidence-Based Systematic Review of Elderberry and Elderflower (Sambucus nigra)by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration, J of Dietary Suppl, 2014 retrieved   In these studies, safety has been established for non-pregnant non- breastfeeding adults. 

Elderberry also has not been studied in pregnant and breastfeeding women- another source of exposure to infants. There are no evidence-based recommendations for the use of elderberry in pregnant and breastfeeding women.3Holst, L, Havnen, G.C. and Nordeng, H., Echinacea and elderberry-should they be used against upper respiratory tract infections during pregnancy? 2014, Front Pharmacol 5: 31. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3941201/

1 European Medicines Agency, Assessment report on Sambucus nigra L., fructus, 2013 retrieved from http://www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/Herbal_-_HMPC_assessment_report/2013/04/WC500142245.pdf
2 Ulbricht, C, Basch, E, Cheung L et al., An Evidence-Based Systematic Review of Elderberry and Elderflower (Sambucus nigra)by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration, J of Dietary Suppl, 2014 retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/259696401_An_Evidence-Based_Systematic_Review_of_Elderberry_and_Elderflower_Sambucus_nigra_by_the_Natural_Standard_Research_Collaboration
3 Holst, L, Havnen, G.C. and Nordeng, H., Echinacea and elderberry-should they be used against upper respiratory tract infections during pregnancy? 2014, Front Pharmacol 5: 31. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3941201/