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Elderberry Cyanide: Myths, Facts & Safety Tips

Michael Gonzales
September 8, 2023
Elderberry Cyanide

elderberry cyanide

Natural Cold Remedies & The Truth About Elderberry Cyanide: Elderberries, featured in beloved foods and drinks such as juices, pies, syrups, jams, and wines, are not only a culinary favorite but also cherished for their medicinal properties. However, it’s crucial to know that black elderberries (Sambucus nigra) have cyanogenic glycosides, which can release hydrogen cyanide when ingested. To ensure safety, always cook black elderberries before consumption.


Elderberry plants contain chemicals that break down into cyanide when consumed; only their edible fruits – the berries – should be eaten. Keep children away from elderberry bushes to protect their wellbeing.

Elderberry cyanide poisoning exhibits similar symptoms as other types of poisonings, but are more severe. An increase in heart rate follows by tremors and difficulty breathing before becoming characteristically bright cherry red in hue. Asphyxiation eventually leads to death as the cyanide inhibits cytochrome oxidase which prevents hemoglobin from carrying oxygen to tissues.

Elderberries have long been used as health tonics, with syrups of unripe fruit being sold as flu and cold remedies. According to studies, elderberry may reduce duration and severity of flu symptoms while shortening illness duration in those who contract it; however there is limited data that supports any other use for elderberries.

Elderberry plants contain high concentrations of amygdalin, a cyanogenic glycoside. Consuming unripe berries or their leaves, branches or roots can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea when eaten raw; cooking deactivates this compound so the only effective solution to avoid this problem is by only eating cooked berries.

People suffering from autoimmune conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), or rheumatoid arthritis should avoid taking elderberry supplements as this could increase immune activity and complicate treatment. Elderberry supplements may interact with certain medications, such as antacids, anticoagulants, antidepressants and drugs used post kidney transplant. Always speak to your physician prior to taking an elderberry supplement. Third-party testing of supplements is important to avoiding anything with unnecessary or potentially harmful additives. Furthermore, pregnant or breastfeeding mothers should discuss supplementation plans with their doctor to ensure it’s safe for both themselves and their baby.


Elderberries are highly nutritious, and the cooked berries can be used in jams, syrups, pies and other desserts. Elderberry fruits also make delicious additions to fresh fruit salads. Unfortunately, their leaves, stems, roots and unripe berries contain toxic cyanogenic glycosides that produce amygdalin; once digested in the digestive tract it transforms to hydrogen cyanide which is fatal for all animals including humans within one hour of exposure.

To prevent cyanide poisoning caused by raw elderberries, only consume cooked products derived from them (e.g. syrups). When elderberries have reached full ripeness they are safe to eat as heat will deactivate any potentially cyanogenic glycosides present within the fruit itself.

If you’re considering taking elderberry supplements, be sure that they have been third-party tested for cyanide content and other contaminants. Always discuss them with a registered dietitian or healthcare provider prior to use.

Elderberry extracts have shown promise for treating influenza and shortening the duration of cold symptoms, according to limited clinical trials. Elderberry may increase immunity activity; as such it should only be consumed if you have one of several autoimmune conditions like multiple sclerosis, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

Studies indicate that elderberry can help reduce the severity of hangovers, however more research needs to be conducted in this area. Elderberry may interact with certain medications like blood thinners; before including it into your diet, consult your pharmacist or registered dietitian; they can advise if it’s safe and prescribe the appropriate dose.


Elderberries (Sambucus Nigra and Sambucus Canadensis) are one of the best natural ways to support our immune systems during cold and flu season. Packed with antivirals, anti-inflammatories, and antioxidants, many people find taking elderberry supplements regularly (every few hours when sick first appears) helps them avoid becoming seriously ill with either illness or flu. But users must be careful when using this powerful herb – there may be potential dangers involved!

Elderberry trees contain cyanogenic glycosides that, when consumed, convert to hydrogen cyanide when digested. Cyanide poisoning can cause severe nausea and vomiting and, at high doses, may even be fatal within less than an hour if left untreated. These glycosides are also present in seeds of the plant in lower concentrations than in other parts of its anatomy, however ingestion of seeds could result in build-ups of toxic cyanide in your digestive system and should therefore be avoided as much as possible.

Elderberry plants contain only fully ripe and cooked berries which should be consumed. Ripe berries have much lower levels of cyanogenic glycosides that may damage health; cooking can effectively remove them. For optimal flavor and health benefits, users may opt to focus on using leaves, flowers, roots and branches for medicinal use and avoid eating parts that haven’t been fully ripened and cooked first.

Like all plants, elderberry plants are susceptible to pests and diseases. One of the more prevalent issues associated with elderberries is infestation by Elderberry Borer Beetle (Demis eugenioides). This beetle hatches from eggs laid near the base of plants near their base before tunneling through stems and roots eating away at internal tissues before being controlled using traps in areas likely to host elderberries plants.

As with other plants, elderberries require careful management in order to thrive and avoid becoming overcrowded and producing too many cyanogenic glycosides. Pruning and removal of damaged parts after infestation are two effective means of decreasing this concentration of cyanogenic glycosides.


Elder plants contain cyanide-inducing glycosides that may lead to nausea, vomiting and diarrhea if consumed raw; large doses could even prove fatal. By cooking elderberries seeds however, all toxic components have been eliminated, making the dark purple fruit an ideal source of Vitamin C while providing powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidants for added benefit.

Elderberries contain antiviral properties that may help shorten the duration of cold symptoms and even treat viral infections like influenza; some studies have even demonstrated this fact; however, further investigation needs to take place before this claim can be fully established.

Although berries may be considered safe, it is advised not to consume green elderberries or their roots and stems due to potential precursors for cyanide poisoning present within these parts of the plants.

Green berries should only be consumed when cooked prior to consumption as otherwise they can build up in your body, potentially leading to poisoning. Therefore, only consume ripe berries when juice preparation takes place and ensure the seeds are excluded.

Other parts of the plant, such as its branches, twigs, leaves and roots are considered harmful due to high concentrations of cyanogenic glycosides present. They can have an unpleasant bitter flavor while some individuals have reported allergic reactions from coming into contact with it.

Elderberry should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding, if taking medication and/or nursing. Furthermore, those suffering from conditions that cause fluid retention such as diabetes or high blood pressure should consult their healthcare provider before taking elderberries as it could increase fluid retention.

Even though black elder (Sambucus nigra) is the most widely recognized species of medicinal shrub, other varieties may prove useful as well. Blue elder (Sambucus cerulea), for instance, is less toxic and grows well in West Virginia’s dry soil conditions.


  • Michael Gonzales

    Michael has a diverse set of skills and passions, with a full-time career as an airline pilot and a dedicated focus on health and fitness consulting. He understands the importance of balancing a busy lifestyle with maintaining a healthy mind and body, and is committed to helping others achieve the same success. Michael's expertise in health and fitness is not just limited to physical training, but also extends to nutrition, stress management, and overall wellbeing. He takes a holistic approach to health and fitness, helping clients to achieve their goals in a sustainable and fulfilling way. With a strong desire to inspire and motivate others, Michael is always ready to share his time and knowledge with those who seek his guidance. Whether in the air or on the ground, Michael is dedicated to helping others live their best lives.

    https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-gonzales-07bb4b31/ [email protected] Gonzales Michael


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