Are Elderberries Poisonous? The Truth About This Medicinal Plant

There are many myths and misconceptions about elderberry. Some people believe that all elderberry are poisonous, while others think that only specific types of elderberry are harmful. So, what is the truth about this medicinal plant? Are elderberry poisonous? Let’s take a closer look at this plant and find out!

Elderberry – Is it Poisonous?

Black Elderberry Plant Close Up

Yes, the leaves, stems, unripe berries, and roots of the elderberry are poisonous, but cooking the berries makes them safe. They contain high levels of Vitamin C, flavonoids, and anthocyanins which give them their therapeutic properties. Elderberry has been shown to be helpful in treating colds, cases of flu, sinus infections, and other respiratory conditions.

The elderberry is a plant that grows in North America, Europe, and Asia. It can reach up to 20 feet tall and has clusters of small, white flowers. The berries of the elderberry are used for medicinal purposes and are also made into wines and jellies.

Which Elderberry is Poisonous?

Elderberries are not poisonous if properly prepared and cooked. As previously stated, the leaves, stems, and roots are poisonous. The fruit also contains cyanide-inducing glycoside which is destroyed through cooking. This means that it is not a good idea to eat raw elderberries.

Elderberry Editability

Are Black Elderberries Edible?

Blue Elderberry close up of the berries and leaves


Yes, the fruit of ripe cooked black elderberries is edible. The berries are dark purple or black and are used for making wines, jellies, and syrups. The black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) is the most common type of elderberry. It is found in Europe, North America, and Asia.

Are Red Elderberries Edible?

Yes, the fruit of ripe cooked red elderberries is edible. The berries are red or pinkish-red and are used for making wines, jams, and jellies. The red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) is a native of North America.

White Elderberry Editability

Yes, the fruit of ripe cooked white elderberries is edible. The berries are white or cream-colored and are used for making wines, jams, and jellies. The white elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) is a native of North America.

How to Pick the Right Elderberry

The best way to find elderberry bushes that are safe to eat is to go on a foraging expedition with an experienced forager. They will be able to identify the different types of elderberry and tell you which plants are edible.

Thick Elderberry plant with berries

If you are unable to find a forager, then it is best to avoid eating any part of the elderberry bush. Only eat berries that have been specifically identified as being from an elderberry plant, and make sure they are ripe berries. Do not eat any other part of the plant, as they are poisonous!

How Many Elderberries Will Kill You?

Although eating too many raw elderberries will not kill you, it can have negative health consequences due to potential cyanide effects. The leaves, stems, and roots of the elderberry are poisonous, but the cooked berries are not. There have not been any published studies documenting death from consuming raw elderberries.

How Do Elderberries Poison You?

Elderberries poison you because the leaves, stems, and roots contain a poisonous glycoside called sambunigrin. This glycoside is converted into cyanide when it is ingested. Cyanide inhibits the ability of cells to use oxygen and can cause death. The cooked berries are not poisonous because the glycoside is destroyed during cooking.



Is It Safe To Eat Dried Elderberries?

No. Uncooked berries have cyanide-inducing glycosides present. Although these are generally lower in dried berries, it’s still not advised to eat them without cooking them first, since cooking will deactivate the toxins. If you’re interested in making elderberry syrup or elderberry juice, be sure to cook the berries first.

Are There Any Cases of Elderberry Poisoning?

There are no reports of serious elderberry poisoning, but there have been cases of mild toxicity. Symptoms of elderberry poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. These symptoms usually resolve without treatment.

In one research paper, eight people were taken to the hospital for severe gastrointestinal symptoms due to consuming raw elderberry. All eight people survived without any permanent effects. (Source here)

Is Elderberry Toxic to Humans?

Yes, only ripe elderberry fruit is edible by humans after it has been cooked. Any other part of the plant including raw berries is toxic to humans.

Can You Eat Fresh Elderberries Straight From The Tree?

No, raw elderberries contain cyanide-inducing glycosides which can lead to severe gastrointestinal symptoms. Cook and prepare elderberries before eating them.

How Toxic Are Raw Elderberries

Raw elderberries are mildly toxic. There are no reported cases of human death from ingesting raw elderberries, but there are reports of emergency room visits due to toxicity and severe gastrointestinal upset.

How Do You Remove Cyanide From Elderberries?

The best way to remove cyanide from elderberries is to cook them. Cyanide has a low evaporation point, so any form of heating, roasting, or high-temperature drying will remove the cyanide.

Do Dried Elderberries Have Cyanide?

Yes, unless elderberries are dried at high heat, they can still contain Cyanide. Room temperature drying is not recommended.

How Do I Prepare Elderberries for Eating?

The best way to prepare elderberries for eating is by cooking them. This will destroy any cyanide-inducing glycosides that are present in the berries. You can eat the cooked berries fresh or freeze them for later use.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that cooked elderberries are not poisonous – unless you eat the leaves, stems, roots, or unripe berries! It’s important to cook the berries before eating them. The fruit of the plant contains beneficial nutrients that can help support your health. So go ahead and enjoy this delicious medicinal wonder!