Evidence Based

Elderberry While Pregnant 2024: Can I Have Them? Are They Safe?

Emma Loker

Published at 19:34

Sevginur Akdas, RD

Medical reviewer

Women can eat cooked elderberries while pregnant in small amounts. Photo: Team Design

Originally from Europe and now grown all over the world, elderberries have a long history of medicinal use, helping our immune system fight cold and flu symptoms. They are also a popular supplement in the 21st century, and a fair amount of research has backed their health properties. 

But can you have elderberry while pregnant, or should expectant mothers steer clear? If you want to know how elderberries can be a safe way to boost your immune system and how to detox your body while pregnant, this article will show you the way.

Elderberry-Pregnancy: Can You Have Elderberries When You’re Pregnant?

There is a lack of evidence for the safety of elderberry consumption during pregnancy. Is elderberry safe for pregnancy? Most of the scientific studies in the literature recommend health care professionals not to advise their pregnant women to consume elderberry for its health effects.

Elderberry During Pregnancy: Is It Alright?

can you take elderberry while pregnant
Elderberry syrup poses some risks if taken during pregnancy. Photo: Adam J/Shutterstock

The foods, supplements, prenatal vitamins, and drugs you take during your pregnancy expose you and your growing baby to many potential dangers, including premature birth, miscarriage, uterine contractions, and birth defects or developmental problems in the fetus. 

So can you have elderberry while pregnant? Is elderberry safe during pregnancy? Though elderberry is one of the healthiest fruits, there are several reasons why it is not advisable to take such supplements while pregnant. Let’s look at each of them below.

Elderberry And Pregnancy: Is Elderberry Safe During Pregnancy?

So, if you’re still wondering, can I take elderberry while pregnant? The short answer: it’s not recommended. But why is elderberry bad for pregnancy?

These supplement-sized doses create concerns around its potential safety, although scientists currently don’t have a definitive answer. According to a review[1] of the scientific literature performed in 2014, there is no data on whether elderberry syrup or other supplements are safe for pregnant women or not. Therefore, pregnant women should avoid consuming elderberry and not take the risk. The U.S. government confirmed in 2020[2] that nothing is known about the safety of such supplements during this important stage of your life. 

Interference With Drugs

If you are currently on medication, elderberry syrup or supplements may also not be ideal since they reduce the activity of[3] enzymes called cytochrome P family, or CYPs. These enzymes are important for our body’s drug metabolism to process the medications we take.

Drugs that might be affected include some for depression, asthma, high blood pressure, and irregular heartbeats, conditions that should not remain untreated while you are pregnant.

Harmful Substances In Unripe Fruits

Unripe elderberries,[4] as well as the leaves and seeds of the elderberry plant, contain proteins called lectins.[5] These are also present in raw beans and grains and tend to cause diarrhea and vomiting[6] when consumed. This is the last thing a pregnant woman needs, as it leads to a loss of essential nutrients that they and their developing babies need to be healthy. While prenatal and postnatal vitamins can help, it is still important to receive nutrients through our food.

Even worse, unripe berries[4] and those other parts of the plant carry toxic chemicals that resemble cyanide and cause nausea, vomiting, and weakness. However, it’s important to note that unripe elderberries contain fewer toxic components[5] than the leaves, for example. So, while we do not recommend eating elderberries, unripe berries are less risky. 

There is only one available study[7] in which one pregnant woman was monitored while taking elderberry, elderberry syrup, or elderberry supplementation. She complained of an upset stomach, potentially due to these harmful substances.

Elderberry And Pregnancy: Important Things To Keep In Mind

Elderberry And Pregnancy: Important Things To Keep In Mind
Considering the risks is important. Photo: kubais/Shutterstock

Can I take elderberry while pregnant? If you want to take the chance and continue taking your favorite elderberry supplement, keep in mind all the possible risks.

Use An Abundance of Caution

Because research on elderberry safety during pregnancy is lacking, it means that potential risks remain unknown. For this reason, you should err on the side of caution and avoid it, especially during the first trimester[8] when the fetus is most vulnerable. 

This is the period during which most of the baby’s structures and organs start to develop and the period during which it is at the highest risk of major birth defects.

Consult Your Physician

Before including elderberry or other herbal products in your diet, consult your physician or obstetrician first. Because they know you, they can provide personalized advice based on your individual health conditions and requirements. Generalized online advice is often not appropriate for your specific circumstances.

Don’t Underestimate A Healthy Diet

If you want to take elderberry during your pregnancy to boost your immune function and remain healthy, rather start eating healthy and obtain those same nutrients from food. A healthy diet filled with[9] fruit, vegetables, fish, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and small amounts of herbs can take you a long way.

These foods contain plenty of vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, and other important substances to support our immune systems. These are the familiar and proven sources of nutrition that have kept us healthy for centuries without the risks that herbal supplements carry.

Adequate sleep[10] and moderate, regular exercise[11] can also help to keep your immune system in good shape.

Supplements Are Unregulated

Unlike medications made by pharmaceutical companies, herbal supplements aren’t tested and approved[12] for safety or quality by the FDA. There is no guarantee that it even contains what it says it does. Equally importantly, it might be contaminated with additives and impurities[13] that shouldn’t be in it at all. 

Pregnancy is the time in your life that you must take special care with what and how much you are consuming, in case it might harm your baby. Supplements make this almost impossible to do.

Potential Benefits Of Elderberry During Pregnancy

For men and for women who aren’t pregnant, elderberry is one of the best fruit and veg supplements they can take. Its ability to combat both temporary viral infections and serious chronic conditions are just some of the incredible health benefits of these berries.

These are some of the ways it can keep you healthy:

  • It stimulates our immune system, which helps us fight viruses and prevents them from replicating[14] which shortens the duration of viral infections like flu, herpes, and viral respiratory illnesses.
  • While it seems not to prevent flu, it shortens its duration and reduces[2] the number of symptoms, a highly attractive benefit for anyone who regularly comes down with colds and flu.
  • One study proved that it could kill[15] a large variety of bacteria in the laboratory, which may help your immune system fight bacterial infections like strep throat, pneumonia, gastrointestinal problems, and upper respiratory tract infections.
  • It can reduce[16] cardiovascular disease in women, which is a particular concern during periods when one is battling under stressful workloads or struggling to find time to exercise.
  • Since it increases insulin secretion and improves[17] blood sugar levels, it can protect against diabetes, a disease that is becoming[18] increasingly widespread.
  • Elderberry can reduce[17] uric acid, which research has linked with elevated blood pressure[19] and gout.[20]


So, can you take elderberry while pregnant? The safety of elderberries during pregnancy remains uncertain due to a lack of research. Safety concerns include the concentrated doses in supplements, the harmful substances they may contain, and their interference with medications.

It is far safer to consume a healthy diet, get enough sleep, and do enough exercise while pregnant. 

More research is needed to fully understand the adverse effects of consuming elderberry while pregnant. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you take elderberry while pregnant?

It is not recommended. While they offer potential health benefits, no studies have tested their safety during pregnancy. This means there is no way to tell whether they are safe for you and your baby.

Why are elderberries bad for pregnancy? 

Because no research conclusively evidences their safety, which poses a risk for pregnant women. It’s better to be cautious and avoid elderberries due to the potentially harmful substances they contain and the highly concentrated dose in elderberry juice or supplements.

Can elderberries affect fertility?

The research on the adverse effects of elderberry on fertility is extremely thin on the ground. For women, research indicates that elderberries may promote the success and multiplication of ovarian cells[21] and improve sperm viability[22] in men.

Are there negative side effects of elderberries? Why is elderberry bad for pregnancy?

Elderberries should not have side effects if they are consumed without leaves, stems, and seeds, cooked properly, and taken in moderate amounts. They may increase urination[17] and potentially interfere with the absorption of medications, which should be kept in mind.

Why are elderberries not FDA-approved?

Elderberries are dietary supplements, not medicines. The FDA does not test[23] dietary supplements. The burden of proof for safety and effectiveness lies with the supplement manufacturer, which means that the FDA cannot approve them.

Emma Loker is a professional writer specializing in psychology. She has a 1st class honors degree in Psychology and is currently training as a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapeutic Counsellor at the University of Cambridge.


MANA adheres to strict sourcing guidelines, avoids most tertiary sources, and uses only professional resources updated to contain accurate and current information. We majorly rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research from reputable medical associations. For more information regarding our editorial process, please refer to the provided resources.

  1. Holst, L., Gro Cecilie Havnen and Nordeng, H. (2014). Echinacea and elderberry—should they be used against upper respiratory tract infections during pregnancy? Frontiers in Pharmacology, [online] 5. doi:https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2014.00031.
  2. NCCIH. (2020). Elderberry. [online] Available at: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/elderberry.
  3. Astrid Jordet Langhammer and Odd Georg Nilsen (2013). In vitro Inhibition of Human CYP1A2, CYP2D6, and CYP3A4 by Six Herbs Commonly Used in Pregnancy. Phytotherapy Research, [online] 28(4), pp.603–610. doi:https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.5037.
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  22. Mohammadreza Mafi Balani, Mahsa Ghafari Novin, Mohammadamin Sabbagh Alvani, Pourya Raee, Afshar, A., Fakhroddin Aghajanpour, Soltani, R., Meysam Hassani Moghaddam, Fathi, M., Vakili, K., Salimi, M., Ahad, Abdi, S., Mohammad-Amin Abdollahifar and Abbas Aliaghaei (2022). An elderberry-supplemented diet improves spermatogenesis in mice with busulfan-induced azoospermia. Reproduction, Fertility and Development, [online] 34(17), pp.1078–1088. doi:https://doi.org/10.1071/rd22178.
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