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Can You Take Elderberry While Pregnant?

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The many potential health benefits of elderberry supplementation are frequently cited by those who use elderberry as a way to boost immunity, fight inflammation, and provide relief for symptoms associated with colds, flu, and upper respiratory infections. 

Elderberry is considered a gentle and generally safe supplement for most people. But as pregnant women know, pregnancy is a time when specific remedies, supplements, medications, and even foods need to be temporarily limited or avoided. Does this apply to elderberry? Can you take elderberry while pregnant? Here’s what we know.

Who Should Take Elderberry?

Elderberries have been prized for centuries for their potential medicinal properties. Most commonly, elderberries and elderberry supplements have been touted to support the immune system, protect against illness, fight inflammation, and alleviate cold and flu symptoms. 

You can find elderberry, also known as Sambucus nigra and black elderberry, in several types of supplements. Elderberry syrup is popular for times when your throat is irritated and scratchy. You can also find elderberry in lozenges, capsules, and gummies.

Recent research supports many of these claims: One study suggests that elderberry supplementation may reduce the severity and duration of cold and upper respiratory symptoms and benefit the immune system thanks to its vitamin C and antioxidant content. Some studies also show that elderberry supplementation may effectively treat upper respiratory symptoms. Other studies suggest elderberry may be a safe option for those with viral respiratory illnesses.

Who Should Not Take Elderberry?

Elderberry is considered a safe supplement without risks or side effects for most people. However, people with certain health conditions should avoid elderberry or talk to their doctor before trying an elderberry supplement. Because elderberry can stimulate the immune system, those with autoimmune conditions (including, but not limited to, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus) should avoid elderberry supplementation, as should those who have received an organ transplant.

Elderberry in Pregnancy 

Common colds may be prevalent in pregnancy. Most people will catch the common cold – a highly contagious but mild illness characterized by upper respiratory symptoms – at least two to three times a year. That number is often higher for some, especially young children. 

And because of changes to the immune system that occur in pregnancy, pregnant women are sometimes also susceptible to catching the common cold more frequently than they might have otherwise. Even though colds are mild illnesses that usually self-resolve, the symptoms of a cold can be particularly bothersome during pregnancy. After all, when pregnancy symptoms may already be causing discomfort or difficulty sleeping, adding a cough or stuffy nose doesn’t help. 

Are You Allowed to Take Elderberry While Pregnant?

As a rule of thumb, pregnant women should not take or start any medications or supplements during pregnancy without first talking with their doctor. As for elderberry, while this supplement is considered safe for most people, there is not enough research demonstrating that elderberry is safe during pregnancy. That’s because there isn’t enough research, period. 

In other words, while studies have not demonstrated that elderberry while pregnant is harmful or dangerous, there have also not been enough studies showing that it is safe. For this reason, women should avoid elderberry while pregnant or nursing. As Shuhan He, MD, tells Parents Magazine, “There is insufficient data on the use of elderberry during pregnancy or lactation.”

The safety of elderberry has yet to be well demonstrated. So, if you are pregnant during cold and flu season or have concerns about your immune system health, talk with a primary care physician to learn how to maintain feelings of health and wellness during the most challenging seasons. If you are breastfeeding or pregnant, you need to exercise caution about what you put into your body.

Want to learn more? Read our research about the best elderberry supplement.