Here’s what you need to know about elderberry syrup for kids—and how it may help treat and prevent illness—and how to choose one you can trust.
Elderberry Syrup for Kids
Elderberry syrup has become so popular in recent years as a way to stop a cold before it starts or at the onset. Elderberries come from a plant called Sambucus nigra, and have been used medicinally for thousands of years. The berries are an antioxidant and high in vitamin C and fiber, which is likely what gives them their immunity-boosting super powers. Many people also believe they have antiviral properties.
Today, they’re often made into syrups or gummies and taken as a supplement to help prevent illness or to soothe cold-and-flu symptoms once they start.
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What to Keep in Mind
Like many natural remedies, a lot of people swear by elderberry syrup and its popularity has spread by word of mouth and parents who will try anything to keep their kiddos healthy during cold and flu season. But, as is the case with these sorts of things, the research isn’t always so clear.
A few years ago, a pair of two studies did find that taking elderberry extract when symptoms started reduced the duration of the flu by an average of 4 days (!), however, a later (and larger) study failed to back that up.
It’s important to note that elderberry products are considered supplements, and therefore not regulated by the FDA, so it’s important to make sure you buy from a reputable company (like our picks below!) and know that there could be considerable variation between different products.
Also, it’s worth noting that the American Academy of Pediatrics says this about supplements: “…believes that healthy children receiving a normal, well-balanced diet do not need vitamin supplementation over and above the recommended dietary allowances…”. They go on to remind us that megadoses of vitamins (like large amounts of vitamins A, C, or D) can produce toxic symptoms and adverse reactions.
Which is to say: Always talk to your own pediatrician before giving a supplement, no matter which one it is, both for safety purposes and also because supplements are expensive and it’s worth it to make sure it’s actually money well spent.
Frequently Asked Questions
Like many natural remedies, elderberry products are not a cure-all and shouldn’t replace other stay-healthy measures like hand washing and recommended vaccines (such as the flu shot), which are the real keys to staying healthy. Some doctors believe that elderberry is likely safe if taken in small doses, while others are hesitant to recommend it since products are unregulated (these are considered a health supplement, which is not regulated by the FDA).
Bottom line: You’ll want to get your own pediatrician—who can take your child’s specific needs into account—to weigh in before using elderberry products, just as you should for any new supplement or medication.
You’ll want to touch base with your pediatrician on this, and also follow the instructions for the specific brand of elderberry syrup you purchase. Most of the syrups recommended below are for ages 1 and up, while the gummies and powders typically have slightly older age recommendations. (Some of the syrups also contain honey, which is not recommended before age 1.)
Elderberries are extremely high in both Vitamin C and fiber, and are thought to have both antioxidant and antiviral properties. For that reason, many people use the syrup as a supplement to boost their immune systems and also to help treat the common cold and flu.
Best Elderberry Supplements for Kids
Below are some of our top picks when considering which supplement to buy. Again (and we keep saying this because it actually really does matter!): Always check in with your pediatrician before starting a new supplement with your child. You’ll also want to check these options against any multivitamin you’re offering, too. Some of them include other vitamins and minerals and we want to make sure we’re not overdoing it.
GAIA Kids Black Elderberry Syrup
This classic syrup option is made with just five organic ingredients—including elderberries for immune support, and honey for additional help soothing cough and cold symptoms. It’s also certified organic, and includes specific dosing instructions for different ages from 1 to 11. Also great: The syrup has no artificial colors or sweeteners.
Childlife Essentials Elderberry Soft Melts
What is a “soft melt” you ask? It’s kind of the best of both worlds: This option is a super soft gummy dissolves in kid’s mouths for an option that’s easy to take, but not as much like candy as a traditional gummy—and is much easier for little kids to chew. This immune-boosting supplement has elderberry and vitamin C, but also includes folic acid for cognitive function and energy.
The company includes dosing information for ages 1 to 13 and up, and also mentions that you can break up the tablets into food if that works better for your littles.
Zarbee’s Naturals Children’s Elderberry Immune Support Gummies
If you prefer a gummy option, these ones from Zarbee’s are an excellent choice. They’re made with the company’s high-quality elderberry extract, which provides antioxidants and Vitamin C. (These gummies are made with fruit pectin instead of gelatin, so they’re vegetarian friendly too). Or, checkout Zarbee’s popular syrup version, also for kids ages two and up.
Rainbow Light Kids Counterattack Elderberry Gummies
Let’s start with what you won’t find in these gummies: They’ve got no artificial preservatives, colors, or sweeteners. They’re free from major allergens and are vegetarian. But what do you get? A lot: These little gummies, for ages 4 and up, are packed with 100 mg of elderberry extract per serving, plus extra Vitamin C, D, and zinc to help keep that immune system in tip-top shape. We also love that their packaging is made from recycled materials.
Nature’s Way Sambucus Standardized Elderberry Immune Syrup for Kids
Another classic syrup option for ages 1 and up, Nature’s Way really swears by their quality, even going as far as using only elderberries that are literally hand-picked from trees in Europe. (That may or may not matter, but we guess it’s nice to know!) Their syrup also includes echinacea for extra immune support.
MegaFood Kids Daily Immune Booster
This is a great option for slightly older kiddos—it’s for ages 5 and up—because the powder can be mixed right into a smoothie or even oatmeal. The powder is made with real food including, of course, elderberries but also oranges, blueberries, cranberries and more for a full day’s worth of Vitamin C. It’s also non-GMO verified and gluten, dairy, and soy free.
For more on all things vitamins and supplements, check out my Ultimate Kids to Toddler Vitamins.
This post was first published February 2021.