What About Elderberries on the AIP?


What about elderberries on the AIP? This is one HOT topic! Any time I’ve ever posted an elderberry recipe in the midst of AIP followers I get lambasted with a barrage of comments that elderberries are NOT compliant, they’re dangerous, and have I lost my mind!?

Well, first of all, in my own defense, no, I’ve not lost my mind – if you check the AIP food lists from Dr. Sarah Ballantyne for the AIP (including the most up-to-date version of the protocol – The Autoimmune Protocol), elderberries are on the approved list, under berries!

Add to that the fact that our family has grown and used them for years to support the immune system! We LOVE them, and  elderberry syrup can be a great thing when you’re run down or feel a cold or flu coming on.

So, what’s all the hub-bub about? Yes or No for AIP?

Elderberries are considered a medicinal herb, and are rich in vitamin A, C and B6 as well as iron and potassium. Plus they’re a potent source of phytonutrients and antioxidants and more! It’s even been validated in scientific studies for colds and flu prevention treatment! BUT … there’s a caveat that Dr. Ballantyne adds to her information online about elderberries:

“Note for my Autoimmune Disease peeps, there is some evidence from malaria studies that elderberry may stimulate Th1 cells, so caution is advised!”
– Source: Elderberry – Dr. Sarah Ballantyne’s The Paleo Mom

Clear as mud then, right?

Let me try to clear this up. In plain English, elderberries, like adaptogenic herbs, can potentially stimulate our immune system in those struggling with autoimmune disease. For the Average Joe elderberry will help boost or support their immune system, but for us, it could over-stimulate an immune system that is already a little off balance … so we must use caution.

Best practice for those on the AIP? Approach elderberries as you would a reintroduction (even though they’re on the elimination stage friendly list). Each person’s body will react differently, so take the same approach as you would adding any food back into your diet. Watch for reactions and symptoms .. with any luck you’ll be someone that can safely use elderberry and take advantage of their many health benefits. (DISCLAIMER: I’m not a doctor, so if it would be best to work with your medical professional on this if you’re at all uncertain).

Health Benefits & Science

Feeling up to some additional reading?

GreenMed Info – Top Four Antiviral Benefits of Elderberry
Global Healing – “Elderberry & the Immune System: A Powerful Combination”
Dr. Sarah Ballantyne – Natural Approaches to Cold and Flu
Dr. Sarah Ballantyne – Nutrient Information about Berries

If you want to read more about the scientific side of things? Dive into the world of Th1 cells and Cytokine Storms, check this article from  Perfect Supplements – Elderberry & Cytokine Storms.”

Elderberry for Immune Support

If you’re under the weather and searching for remedies online, you’ll likely find lots of recipes out there for sambuca / elderberry syrups, candies and more. If you’ve attempted an elderberry reintroduction and don’t have any issues with it, just be aware of ingredients in these types of products, as they typically contain plenty of inflammatory sweeteners.

So as not to leave you hanging, you can make your own immune boosting syrup below for cold and flu season – I used to use it frequently. You can also find plenty of recipes in my searchable Facebook Group – click here to join and use the group search for terms or hashtags like “under the weather” or “sick soup.”

If you’re looking for a quality product that might suit your needs, I recommend checking out this one from my partners at Pique – Elderberry Liposomal Vitamin C. While I haven’t tried it yet, it sounds like an amazing product, and I’ve been in touch with the company to verify that the ingredients they’re using are top-quality, non-GMO (note: as with all products, please scrutinize the ingredient list and/or consult your medical practitioner to decide if it’s right for your stage of your personal healing journey)

Why to consider trying it*:

  • Liposomal Vitamin C supports healthy collagen levels and can increase beneficial gut microbes, which help support strong immunity
  • Vitamin C can increase Bifidobacterium levelswhich is associated with improved immunity
  • Elderberry superfood complex helps combat sun damage
  • Polyphenols in European black elderberries provide a food source for Akkermansia, a bacteria that supports metabolic and immune health
  • Maximized for Absorption™ with liposomal encapsulation
  • Antioxidants help smooth and brighten skin from the inside out
  • 7 clean ingredients with ZERO preservatives, refined sugar, or additives


Since I don’t want to cause any confusion to newbies on the AIP, I refrain from posting elderberry recipes over in the AIP Recipe Collection Facebook Group, but I will provide some right here!

IF you find your body doesn’t react poorly to elderberries (be sure to read above), here are a few recipes you may want to try on your AIP journey.

NOTE: since elderberries are NOT sweet at all, most recipes call for a LOT of sugars/sweeteners! I recommend reducing sweeteners to taste.

elderberry gummies in a jar

Photo: © Coconut Mamma

Elderberry Syrup and Gummies (uses fresh or dried elderberries) – I’ve used this recipe and added cinnamon to my gummies – they were very tasty!
Elderberry Syrup (uses fresh elderberries – use honey NOT sugar for AIP)
Elderberry Syrup (uses dried elderberries) – 
Elderberry Syrup (uses dried elderberries – omit star anise for AIP elimination stage)
Elderberry Shrub (uses dried elderberries – use honey or maple syrup NOT organic sugar for AIP)
Elderberry Tea (uses dried elderberries)
Elderberry Tea (uses dried elderberries – omit cardamom and use honey NOT stevia for AIP)
Elderberry Jam (use the date syrup mentioned for AIP, NOT a low-carb sweetener)
Elderberry Pomegranate Gummies
Elderberry Popsicles


* Research References:
1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36475828/
2. https://www.mdpi.com/2075-4426/12/9/1479