Toddlers & Elderberry Supplements
Commercial elderberry supplements typically contain an extract of Sambucus nigra, or European elder, a species of the elder shrub native to Europe and portions of Asia. Also known as the black elder or elder flower, elderberry is available in capsules as well as in syrups and tinctures. However, elderberry supplements have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment or prevention of any medical condition. Do not give a supplement containing elderberry to a toddler without consulting a pediatrician.
Elderberry has long been used as a folk remedy for colds, fevers, sinus problems, swelling, coughs and infections in Europe and the United States, notes the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Native Americans used elder to help treat rheumatism. However, there's very limited research studying the effects of elderberry on toddlers — most studies look at its benefits for adults — so you should proceed with caution if you're planning to give it to your toddler, and check with your doctor first.
Recommendation for Toddlers
Some elderberry supplements are marketed specifically for children, but do not give toddlers or older children any product that contains elderberry unless it's under the direction and supervision of a doctor. If a pediatrician has advised using elderberry, do not give your toddler more than the recommended dose. Children should never take elderberry supplements designed for adults; some children's formulas contain a significantly lower concentration of elderberry extract than adult products do.
Possible Side Effects
While short-term use of elderberry hasn't been associated with serious side effects, Drugs.com points out that there is no scientific research to prove that long-term elderberry use is safe. Elderberry supplementation may cause an allergic reaction in some toddlers. Children who have diabetes or an autoimmune disorder should not take any form of elderberry. Elderberry supplements can interfere with the proper function of corticosteroids, diabetes medications, laxatives and asthma drugs.
Never allow a toddler to eat raw elderberries, especially if they are unripe and appear green or red. In addition, do not allow toddlers to drink tea prepared from elderberry leaves and avoid using homemade elderberry tinctures or syrups. Unripe elderberries and the leaves contain a poisonous compound that can cause severe diarrhea, vomiting, dizziness, weakness and nausea. If you think your child has elderberry poisoning, immediately contact a poison control center.
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: European Elder
- Issues in New Crops and New Uses: Elderberry as a Medicinal Plant
- The Journal of International Medical Research: Randomized Study of the Efficacy and Safety of Oral Elderberry Extract in the Treatment of Influenza A and B Virus Infections
- Drugs.com: Elderberry