Elderberry syrup is an all-natural remedy for colds, flus, and other illnesses. It’s been used for centuries, and leverages the powerful antioxidant content in elderberries to boost the function of the immune system and lessen the severity and the duration of sickness.
There are a lot of different brands of elderberry syrup out there, and they vary in their potency, purity, and likelihood of being an effective way to help with illnesses.
We’ve ranked and reviewed the ten best elderberry syrups according to quality, plus taken a close look at the science behind using elderberry syrup to treat colds, flus, and other illnesses.
1. Nature’s Way Original Sambucus Elderberry Syrup
Nature’s Way makes an incredibly popular elderberry syrup that’s pretty simple and straightforward in its ingredients.
Each 10 mL serving contains 100 mg of black elderberry extract, which provides the equivalent of 6.4 grams of raw elderberry fruit. The excellent elderberry dosage makes it our number one choice.
2. Gaia Herbs Black Elderberry Syrup
Gaia Herbs Black Elderberry Syrup delivers a super-potent black elderberry juice concentrate, with added antioxidant power from acerola cherry extract.
It’s flavored with sugarcane, providing eight grams of sugar per 10 mL of liquid. Both the elderberry and the acerola cherry are organically grown, making this a great choice if purity is important to you.
3. NOW Foods Elderberry Liquid
NOW Foods Elderberry Liquid provides a simple but powerful elderberry syrup supplement. Its elderberry content is among the highest on the market, thanks in part to its lack of any added sugar.
While it’s not as sweet as some other options, which might make it less palatable to kids, the low sugar content is great from a health perspective. If you want a straightforward and potent elderberry syrup, this should be your choice.
4. Elderberry Queen Organic Elderberry Syrup
‘Elderberry Queen makes an organically certified elderberry syrup that incorporates both black elderberry fruit juice concentrate and aronia berry extract for added antioxidant power.
The sugar content is among the lowest on the market, at only 3 grams. Because the syrup is a blend of both elderberry and aronia berry, the elderberry content is lower than average, but it’s still unique among the blended elderberry syrups for its organic certification.
5. Garden of Life Elderberry Immune Syrup
Garden of Life Elderberry Immune Syrup uses a blend of elderberry juice and elderberry extract in conjunction with a proprietary blend of aronia berry and other herbal extracts to boost immune function.
It uses tapioca fiber syrup instead of sugar as a sweetener, so it has zero grams of sugar, and even a bit of fiber. Though its dosage of elderberry isn’t the highest on the market, it’s one of the better blended elderberry syrups.
6. Honey Gardens Elderberry Syrup
Honey Gardens Elderberry Syrup uses a unique blend of several herbal ingredients designed to reduce the severity of illnesses: it has elderberry syrup, plus raw honey, apple cider vinegar, propolis from honey bees, and echinacea.
Because of these additional ingredients, it’s dissolved in a fairly high concentration of alcohol and water, which might make it a poor choice for children.
That aside, Honey Gardens Elderberry Syrup provides a high quality arsenal of herbal ingredients to treat colds and flus, making it a good pick if you want to use elderberry in conjunction with other remedies.
7. Maine Medicinals Elderberry Syrup
Maine Medicinals Elderberry Syrup is another blended elderberry syrup that includes two varieties (American and European) of elderberry alongside blueberry and elderflower extract.
As with other blended elderberry syrups, the elderberry content proper is lower than what you’d get in a syrup that only uses elderberry juice or extract.
The potential benefit is the added immune function provided by these additional antioxidants, so what style of elderberry syrup you choose will depend on your supplementation strategy.
8. Sambucol Black Elderberry
Sambucol Black Elderberry is a long-standing favorite when it comes to elderberry syrup. Its simple formula, consisting of 3.8 grams of elderberry extract per serving and glucose syrup as flavoring, makes it a very simply designed supplement.
However, it has a few preservatives added, and its elderberry content isn’t quite as high as some of its other competitors, which knocks it down a few points in the rankings.
9. Nature’s Way Original Sambucus for Kids
Nature’s Way Original Sambucus for Kids contains a blend of both elderberry and echinacea, blended with honey bee propolis.
This liquid herbal remedy uses multiple ingredients for a better chance at reducing the severity of illnesses.
Even though it’s flavored with both fructose and natural flavoring agents, the sugar content is not too high, at five grams per 10 mL.
It’s a decent choice, though the primary drawback is the elderberry content, which is necessarily lower due to the inclusion of the other herbal ingredients.
10. JoySpring Elderberry Blend
JoySpring Elderberry Blend is an elderberry syrup that’s specifically made for kids. It is sugar-free and uses a proprietary blend of elderberry alongside other herbal ingredients like mullein leaf, marshmallow root, angelica root, orange peel, and calendula flower.
Unfortunately, since these ingredients are all included as a part of the proprietary blend, it’s hard to tell how the dosage compares to other products on the market.
Given the sheer number of compounds, and the dosage of the proprietary blend as a whole, it’s clear that the dose of elderberry itself is quite low.
Elderberry syrup benefits and side effects
Elderberry syrup is a dark purple liquid that’s long been used as an herbal remedy for illnesses like the cold or the flu.
Elderberry syrup contains powerful antioxidants, which are thought to be responsible for the blunting effect that elderberry syrup has on sicknesses.
By enhancing the body’s immune system response, the duration and severity of colds and flus could be reduced. We’ll take a look at the science behind elderberry syrup as well as its potential for side effects.
Elderberry syrup can fight both bacterial and viral infections. The strong antioxidant powers of elderberry appear to have both antibacterial and antiviral properties, making it well-suited for fighting off infections.
A scientific study published in 2011 in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine used biologically active cultures of influenza viruses and bacterial agents responsible for upper respiratory tract infections (1).
By testing the responses of the viruses and bacteria to various concentrations of elderberry juice extract, the researchers were able to demonstrate that the elderberry juice extracts exhibited strong antimicrobial activity, providing good scientific support for its capabilities as an anti-illness remedy.
The next step was to test the activity of elderberry inside actual living cells.
Elderberry contains compounds that fight the flu in living cells. Other research suggests that these antimicrobial properties do indeed carry over to living cells.
A paper published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine tested how well a standardized extract of elderberry juice inhibited the growth of several different strains of influenza virus (2).
The study used cells from pigs and turkeys in one experiment, and were able to show that exposure to elderberry inhibited several different strains of the influenza virus.
Moreover, in a secondary experiment, the researchers documented how elderberry syrup was used to treat an outbreak of a serious form of influenza in an agricultural community in Israel, and noted that fever and feelings of illness decreased rapidly after administering elderberry syrup.
This secondary study used both a placebo group and an experimental group that took real elderberry syrup; the placebo group recovered from the flu in approximately six days, while the elderberry group recovered in only two to three days.
Elderberry syrup can also help you recover from the cold. While one group of viruses causes the flu, a completely different type of virus causes the common cold.
Fortunately, research suggests that these “rhinoviruses” which cause upper respiratory infections, such as the common cold, are also amenable to being treated with elderberry syrup.
A paper published in 2016 in the journal Nutrients by a team of researchers in Australia studied over 300 airline passengers (3). The passengers were randomly assigned either a placebo supplement or an elderberry supplement, and the researchers tracked who became ill and how long their illness lasted.
The results showed that, of those participants who got a cold, those who were taking the elderberry supplement had significantly fewer days lost to illness compared to the placebo group.
This agrees with the research we reviewed earlier, which found that elderberry was effective at inhibiting the growth of a wide variety of viruses and bacteria.
This is why you’ll find elderberry extract included in multi-ingredient remedies for illness that take advantage of its broad spectrum antimicrobial activity alongside other herbal remedies for sickness like echinacea.
The antioxidant powers of elderberry syrup can help improve long-term health too. With many of the antimicrobial properties of elderberry syrup being attributed to its strong antioxidant abilities, it’s natural to wonder if it shares the same health benefits of other potent antioxidants like resveratrol and astaxanthin.
A review article published in the Journal of Functional Foods in 2015 by researchers in Poland suggests that many of the same benefits do apply (4).
For example, the researchers cite scientific papers demonstrating that elderberry can reduce oxidative stress and reduce a number of risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
These benefits likely have to do with the ability of any antioxidant to reduce oxidative stress, which causes measurable damage to arteries (among other bodily structures).
While the elderberry is safe to eat, unripe elderberry fruit and the other parts of the plant contain toxins. Elderberry syrup poses a risk of nausea and vomiting, but only if you are using a homemade version that inadvertently included some unripe elderberries.
Processed versions use only ripe and nontoxic elderberry fruit. Animal studies have found that elderberry syrup is quite safe, though because its biological mechanism of action is not well-characterized, it is not recommended for pregnant or lactating women (5).
Moreover, as with any supplement, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor if you take prescription medications that might interact with supplements that you are taking.
Establishing precise dosing guidelines for elderberry syrup is a challenge, because many different studies have used many different doses.
Still, one review study cites doses ranging from an equivalent of 0.2 to 12 grams of actual elderberry fruit used as a dose, with the most common doses in the vicinity of three grams (6).
In most elderberry syrup formulations, this works out to 5-15 mL of liquid taken once or twice per day. As with other treatments for infections, like cough drops and zinc supplements, it’s best to take elderberry syrup at the first sign of any symptoms of illness, versus waiting until your symptoms get worse.
That way, you have the best chance of alleviating your symptoms and reducing the duration of illness as much as possible.
Elderberry syrup is an herbal remedy for illnesses that has a strong body of scientific evidence supporting its use as a treatment for the cold and the flu.
Moreover, it might also help with reducing oxidative stress and reducing your risk for heart disease. It exhibits strong antibacterial and antiviral activity, probably due to its high antioxidant content.
Though it’s not a complete cure for the cold or the flu, it’s been shown to reduce the duration and severity of symptoms of mild infections when taken at appropriate doses—starting at about three grams of elderberry fruit equivalent seems to be the most common dosage used in the scientific literature.
With a high-quality elderberry syrup, the risk for side effects is very low, and there’s good evidence to believe that elderberry syrup can help alleviate symptoms and reduce the duration of illnesses like the common cold and even the flu.