Elderberry syrup benefits are vast, and the supplement has become a household staple during the cold and flu season. Yet, research identifying its effects remain sparse. The FSIHS Research team conducted an elderberry meta-analysis to address this gap in knowledge. This analysis analyzed the effects of black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) on the severity and duration of upper respiratory symptoms. This analysis of elderberry syrup benefits included 180 patients. It also evaluated how factors such as flu vaccine status and the underlying cause of upper respiratory symptoms might influence the effects of elderberry syrup.

The Study

Black Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) supplementation effectively treats upper respiratory symptoms: A meta-analysis of randomized, controlled clinical trials.


Because there are not many studies on the effects of elderberry, a meta-analysis provides an opportunity to study the entire collection of data represented across all existing research on a topic. This provides greater precision regarding the total effects of a product. It also enables researchers to identify situations that may increase or decrease the substance’s effects.

The purpose of this study is to quantify the effect of elderberry supplementation for upper respiratory symptoms and to analyze moderator variables of vaccination status and underlying pathology that may influence that total effect size.

Studies for this analysis were identified from the scientific literature and from unpublished works during several months in late 2018. To be included in the analysis, studies could be conducted anywhere in the world, but must have evaluated pure elderberry products as the intervention with upper respiratory symptoms as the primary outcome. The analysis did not include studies that evaluated blends of elderberry syrup plus other herbs and essential oils. Such blends contain other active ingredients that  play a role in the total effect.

Findings: Elderberry Syrup Benefits

A total of 180 patients were reflected in this analysis. The analysis also included outcomes from flu symptoms as compared to cold symptoms, and compared patients who had received the flu vaccine with those who have not received the flu vaccine. Overall, elderberry supplementation was found to have an incredibly large effect on the reduction of flu symptoms. It also had a large effect on the reduction of symptoms from the common cold. The effect on cold symptoms was not as large as the effect on flu symptoms. Flu vaccine status did not have a significant impact on the effects of elderberry on cold and flu symptoms.


Elderberry supplementation can dramatically reduce symptoms of the common cold and shorten the duration and severity of the flu. It is more powerful against the flu than the common cold, but its effects are quite large for both causes of upper respiratory symptoms. Elderberry syrup benefits are equally powerful for those who have received the flu vaccine and those who have not received the flu vaccine. 

It should be noted that most homemade formulas do not produce elderberry syrup that is safe or effective. Elderberries contain chemicals which can produce gastric discomfort, nausea, and even vomiting. These must be removed during the preparation process. Additionally, most homemade recipes do not achieve the potency found in commercial products. Therefore, they are unable to provide these benefits of elderberry syrup. More information on producing a safe and effective homemade product can be found here.

For More Information

The study was published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine in February 2019. You can find more information here

Disclosures: This study was funded by the Franklin School of Integrative Health Sciences and was conducted by the FSIHS Research Department. The researchers who conducted this study are fully trained and certified in human participant research and do not have any conflicts of interest to declare.

How to cite this article: Hawkins, Hires, Dunne, & Baker. (2019) Elderberry Syrup Benefits: A Meta-Analysis. Franklin School of Integrative Health Sciences. Retrieved from https://fsihs.org/elderberry-meta-analysis/ on March 30, 2020.