Elderberry Contraindications

Elderberry, or elder, has traditional uses as a topical solution for wound treatment and as an internal remedy for respiratory illness and other disorders. Chemicals in the berries and flowers of these small trees may decrease swelling in mucous membranes, such as the sinuses, and relieve nasal congestion, as explained by the University of Maryland Medical Center. Several contraindications should be taken into account if you’re considering using elderberry as an herbal remedy.

Diuretic and Laxative

People have used elderberry traditionally as a diuretic. The National Institutes of Health notes that this effect may occur with high doses or long-term use of elder flowers as an internal remedy. Anyone taking diuretics, or medications or supplements that interact with diuretics, should be cautious about using elder supplements, according to the NIH. Excessive diuretic effects can lead to dehydration and electrolyte depletion. Additionally, elder may have laxative properties, so you may not want to use it when also taking a laxative.

Blood Sugar Reduction

Taking elderberry may decrease blood sugar and increase the risk of developing low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, according to the UMMC. If you are taking medications such as insulin or metformin to regulate blood sugar, you may need to monitor your blood sugar more closely when taking elderberry.

Other Drug Interactions

Elder may increase the effects of chemotherapy, including negative effects. Chemotherapy patients should not take elderberry without first discussing it with an oncologist, as advised by the UMMC. Elderberry also may decrease levels of theophylline, a drug for treating asthma and other respiratory conditions. Additionally, elderberry may boost the immune system, so people taking immune system suppressants such as corticosteroids and drugs to treat autoimmune diseases should not take elderberry.


As with any herbal remedy, some people may experience an allergic reaction to elderberry. Because elderberry is in the Caprifoliaceae family, anyone allergic to plants in this family should not take elderberry, according to the NIH. Plants in the Caprifoliaceae family include honeysuckle, snowberry and twin flower. Signs of an allergy to elderberry may include skin irritation, a rash or difficulty breathing.

Considerations for Women

Elderberry theoretically may increase the risk of birth defects or miscarriage. The NIH notes that pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding should not take elder.

About this Author

Shelley Moore is a journalist and award-winning short-story writer. She specializes in writing about personal development, health, careers and personal finance. Moore has been published in “Family Circle” magazine and the “Milwaukee Sentinel” newspaper, along with numerous other national and regional magazines, daily and weekly newspapers and corporate publications. She has a Bachelor of Science in psychology.