A cough here, a sniffle there – suddenly, you’re snuggling up to your sick child for the 3rd time this season. Naturally, as a parent it’s tempting to seek out any form of treatment that will make your child feel better. Unfortunately, most over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medications are not suggested for younger children and can result in undesirable side effects.
As such, natural remedies are often recommended to parents who are concerned about the safety of certain medications but want to help their children recover from a cold or the flu faster. One popular natural approach that many parents swear by is elderberry.
However, you might have doubts about whether or not it actually works and if it’s safe for your child. Although it’s no “miracle” remedy, some studies have shown that elderberry effectively reduces a cold’s duration and relieves flu and upper respiratory symptoms while rarely having side effects.
In this article, I’ll address the overall safety, health benefits, and proper dosage of elderberry for kids. I’ll also discuss the common ways in which kids take elderberry and highlight some of the leading brands for elderberry vitamins.
Keep in mind that this fruit should never be consumed raw and you should always contact your child’s pediatrician before giving them any type of supplement. Additionally, elderberry should not be used in place of medication prescribed by the pediatrician as its medical use has not been approved by the FDA.
Is Elderberry Safe For Kids?
When it comes to how safe elderberry is for kids, there are a few issues. Because dietary supplements, including elderberry products, do not require substantial pre-marketing approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), some pediatricians are opposed to their use. That means that manufacturers are responsible for ensuring safety, so differences are often found between the actual ingredients and those labeled.
Research has found that when properly prepared, elderberry supplement consumption is safe for adults. In fact, Sambucus canadensis L., or elderflower, utilized as a flavoring or seasoning, is found on the FDA Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list. Other species of elderberry are not on the list.
Elderberry health studies tend to focus mainly on adults, limiting the findings regarding how safe it is for kids. Thus, there is insufficient data when it comes to children under 18 years of age. In addition, current studies have several limitations such as not having a large enough number of participants.
Although not all possible side effects are known, elderberry supplements seem to have only a few risks if taken daily for up to five days. When taken by mouth for no more than three days, elderberry extract is possibly safe for those five years or older. Since undercooked elderberry can be unsafe when consumed, we do not recommend for parents to prepare elderberry treatments themselves. Rather, they should purchase an elderberry supplement from a well-known, trustworthy brand such as one of those included in our review of the best elderberry gummies for kids.
As more studies are still needed to prove its ability to treat medical conditions, you should not substitute this supplement for medical interventions. The FDA does not yet approve it for medical use, so it should not replace any treatment that the pediatrician has prescribed.
Elderberry Benefits For Kids
Research shows that elderberry has antiviral properties and many studies support that its use can help reduce the duration or alleviate the symptoms of upper respiratory infections, colds, and the flu.
A 2019 study with 180 participants found that elderberry supplementation effectively reduced the duration and intensity of upper respiratory symptoms. Supplementation had a medium to large reduction of symptoms regardless of the underlying cause of infection. However, the effects were more significant in cases of the flu than in cases of the common cold. This means that elderberry supplementation could potentially be an alternative to prescription drugs and a solution to decreasing antibiotic misuse.
Elderberry supplementation might also help in reducing the duration of the cold. According to one study, it was found that participants who took elderberry 10 days before traveling until 4 to 5 days after arriving overseas had colds that were an average of 2 days shorter.
Researchers from the University of Sydney studied elderberry’s ability to fight against influenza. They found that the compounds from elderberries could directly inhibit the entry of the virus and its replication in human cells while helping strengthen one’s immune response to the virus. These findings are important as the influenza virus is one of the world’s top causes of death.
Elderberry Dosage For Kids
The appropriate dosage of elderberry for kids depends on several factors, including their age, health, and other conditions. Often with natural products, it’s unclear what’s optimal for balancing efficacy and safety. Dosages may be based on those commonly used in available trials or on historical practice.
According to the European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP), the dosage for adults that can be taken three times a day is 3-5 g of dried flowers as an infusion, 3-5 ml of liquid extract (1:1, ethanol 25% V/V), or 10-25 ml of tincture (1:5, ethanol 25% V/V). However, for children under 18 years, there is insufficient data regarding the dosage.
Since the studies of elderberry and its proper dosage for children are unclear, some pediatricians advise against its use. However, if you decide to give it to your child, you should always contact their doctor beforehand.
Elderberry supplements, such as those from Nature’s Way, Zarbee’s, and Llama Naturals, contain between 50 to 100 mg of elderberry extract in 2 gummies. Most brands suggest one gummy daily for those aged 2 or 3 and 2 gummies for children four years or older and adults.
As you may have noticed, the elderberry dosages differ from one supplement to another. The preparation of products varies from manufacturer to manufacturer and even from batch to batch within the same manufacturer. Some products have very different amounts of elderberry extract than what is advertised on their label, making it challenging to identify how much elderberry extract is in the gummy.
It is necessary to do your research and use a quality, well-established product. Make sure to follow the dosing instructions on the package or according to the pediatrician’s instructions.
Elderberry Vitamins For Kids
Elderberry vitamins and supplements come in numerous forms and some kids prefer one form over the other depending on the product’s taste, texture, and ease of use. All forms should contain the scientifically studied ingredient black elderberry.
Elderberry syrup is one of the most popular forms of elderberry supplements. Some syrups like Gaia Herbs and Nature’s Way are recommended for ages one and up, while others like Zarbee’s Naturals and Sambucol’s are recommended for ages two or older. Since elderberries are naturally fruity and sweet, they lend themselves well to syrups.
Just as popular as elderberry syrup, elderberry gummies are loved by kids as well. Elderberry gummies are chewable gummy supplements that contain elderberries as an ingredient. Gummies are great for children who don’t like syrups or other forms of supplements. However, gummies could pose a choking hazard, so it’s better to avoid giving them to younger children.
Additionally, elderberry supplements can be found in tincture form. A tincture is the liquid extract of an herb. Tinctures tend to have a strong taste, so some children might not like them. As with all supplement forms, you should follow the exact instructions and dosage.
Finally, you might find elderberry spray on the market for children. Many manufacturers market this form as a quick, on-the-go solution for taking the supplement. However, some children might not prefer this form as many instruct to spray it at the back of the throat.
With many of these forms, elderberry is typically combined with other nutrients such as zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D, and echinacea. These ingredients are added to enhance elderberry’s effects and further support the immune system.
Also read our elderberry reviews for the best elderberry gummies for kids!
Editor’s note: we are regularly updating this review. If you see any problems, weird interpretations of the data, or just want to say hi, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.