Elderberry Tea- Benefits, How to Make, & Side Effects

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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The benefits of elderberry tea include boosting the immune system, cleansing the body, improving vision, speeding up the metabolism, increasing respiratory health, lowering inflammation, protecting against chronic disease, aiding the healing process, stimulating digestion and eliminating chronic pain, among others. It is also known to possess chemopreventive properties.

Elderberry tea also comes with a number of side effects, including nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and a worsening of autoimmune conditions.

What is Elderberry Tea?

Elderberry tea is prepared by steeping the flowers of the elderberry plant that grow early in the blooming season before the berries appear on the plant. Scientifically known as Sambucus ceruleathis plant has been used for its medicinal benefits for thousands of years by indigenous people of the Americas, including the leaves, bark, roots, flowers, berries, and leaves. The plant itself is a shrub, but the flowers used for brewing tea are normally white and have a rather unpleasant smell.

The health benefits of this tea are mainly derived from the rich concentrations of anthocyanins, quercetin, cinnamic acid, flavonoids, triterpenoids, and other antioxidants, as well as vitamin A, vitamin B, and vitamin C.

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Benefits of Elderberry Tea

Elderberry tea is a popular drink for people suffering from macular degeneration, respiratory infections, indigestion, constipation, high toxicity, chronic pain, obesity, poor metabolic function, bronchitis, cancer, and other chronic diseases.

Vision Health

Significant levels of vitamin A in elderberry tea make it the ideal booster for vision health. Vitamin A acts as an antioxidant and can help prevent macular degeneration and slow the development of cataracts as you age.

Cups of elderberry tea with fresh elderberries on a wooden table

Two cups of tasty and refreshing elderberry tea Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Metabolic Function

The B-family vitamins are well represented in elderberry tea, most of which can boost the metabolism. By improving metabolic function, it can increase passive fat-burning, which can aid in weight loss efforts, while also optimizing various processes in the body related to hormones and digestion.

Detoxify the Body

Elderberry tea has been linked to laxative and diuretic effects, meaning that it can detoxify the body by expelling excess toxins, salts, and fats through urination. As a laxative, this tea can improve symptoms of constipation, reducing the occurrence of hemorrhoids, and maximize nutrient uptake efficiency.


Soothing the stomach with natural anti-inflammatory compounds, elderberry tea can reduce excess flatulence, indigestion, acid reflux disease, and stomach upset, making it an excellent tea for before or after meals.

Respiratory Infections

Some of the most popular traditional uses of elderberry tea relate to respiratory infections, bronchitis, coughs, and congestion. There appears to be decongestant and expectorant qualities in elderberries volatile compounds, helping to ease inflammation in the respiratory tracts and eliminating mucus and phlegm where bacteria and other pathogens can thrive.

Immune System

High levels of vitamin C make this herbal tea a potent immune system aid, as it can stimulate the production of white blood cells, and also act as an antioxidant throughout the body. Ascorbic acid can seek out free radicals and lower oxidative stress, which allows your immune system to focus on more pressing attacks and infections.

Pain and Inflammation

Studies have found that there are certain analgesic properties to elderberry tea, as well as anti-inflammatory properties that help those recovering from illness, injury or surgery. This tea is particularly popular for those suffering from back pain or joint disorders, and some people drink 2-3 cups per day to relieve pain from morning to night. Elderberry tea can also be used medicinally to treat symptoms of arthritis.

May Help With Cancer

According to the study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, elderberries have shown strong chemopreventive potential. American elderberry extract has also been able to inhibit the promotion of carcinogenesis. With this research, we think it is fair enough to include elderberry tea in your diet. However, do consult with your doctor if you are feeling uneasy.

How do You Make Elderberry Tea?

Brewing your own elderberry tea is quite easy, and requires nothing more than a few flowerheads from the elderberry plant, cinnamon, and mint. While some people prefer to make a syrup from crushed elderberries and use that to quickly make an elderberry-flavored beverage, the milder form of tea made from the flowerheads is also very effective, and more pleasant to taste. So, let’s take a look at how to make elderberry tea below :

Cups of elderberry tea with fresh elderberries on a wooden table

How to Make Elderberry Tea

Elderberries are known for their natural immune-boosting potential. They make for quite an interesting tea. While elderberries, by and large, have a naturally sweet taste, they can be tart at times, and when brewed with cinnamon or any other spice, they make for quite a soothing and rejuvenating drink. So let's take a look at the recipe below. 
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Course: Beverage
Cuisine: British
Keyword: elderberry tea
Appliance: Stove
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 3 cups
Author: Ishani Bose


  • 6 cups water (filtered)
  • 3 tbsp elderberries (dried)
  • 4 pieces cardamom optional
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 fresh ginger (cut into fine pieces)
  • Honey/sugar/stevia/or any other sweetner (optional)


  • If you wish to add spices to the tea, add the cinnamon sticks, cloves, fresh ginger, and cardamom to it and continue to boil.
  • Once it reaches a boil, cover the vessel and reduce the heat to low. Let it simmer 30 minutes. Once you get your desired taste and consistency, strain it in a cup and enjoy. 
  • You can also refrigerate it and have it cool if you wish to do so! However, people usually prefer to have it warm. 
    Cups of elderberry tea with fresh elderberries on a wooden table


You can use the unopened flowerheads to brew this delicious tea or wait until they bloom for a milder, sweeter flavored drink

What Does an Elderberry Taste Like?

Elderberry has a unique flavor, ranging from tangy and tart to bitter or sweet, depending on when in the growing season they are picked, and which variety you are eating. European black elderberries tend to be more tart or bitter, whereas American elderberries are typically sweet, and are more popular for use in jams, desserts, and candies.

Elderberry Tea Side Effects

The side effects of elderberry tea are mainly gastrointestinal in nature, resulting in nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. This can be due to consuming an excessive amount or if one has a particular allergy to the elderberry plant or other members of the Sambucus genus. However, other side effects related to specific medical conditions or drug interactions.

  • Diabetic Problems – Given that elderberry tea does have blood sugar-lowering tendencies, hypoglycemic patients should be careful when adding elderberry tea to their diet. This could cause dangerously low blood sugar, resulting in fainting or diabetic shock. Speak to your doctor before consuming this powerful tea.
  • Autoimmune Disease – Many of the antioxidants found in elderberry tea are excellent stimulants for the immune system, but this can exacerbate certain autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis or lupus.
  • Pregnancy – A limited amount of research has been done on the effects of elderberry tea during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, but due to the wide range of powerful chemicals found in this tea, it is not recommended. 
  • Mistaken Identity – The elderberry plant looks extremely similar to water hemlock, which is a very toxic and lethal plant when ingested. Do not pick elderberry in the wild unless you are trained to know the difference, or else a mistake could cost you your life!
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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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