Elderberry vs Pokeberry Health Benefits: Exploring The Differences Between The 2

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Elderberry vs Pokeberry Health Benefits

In an era marked by a growing interest in holistic wellness and a preference for natural solutions, the popularity of herbal supplements and remedies has surged. Many individuals are turning to ancient traditions and folk wisdom to seek alternatives or complementary options to conventional medicine.

Throughout history, many have still been confused about the difference between elderberry vs pokeberry health benefits. It’s crucial to emphasize that despite their striking visual similarities, pokeberry and elderberry plants are distinct from each other.

What Is Elderberry?

Elderberry, scientifically classified as elderberry bush (Sambucus nigra), is a deciduous shrub within the Adoxaceae family. The elder plant, which also yields elderflowers, is where the elderberry is derived.

Elderberries grow in regions of Europe, North America, and parts of Asia; this plant showcases petite, deep purple to black berries renowned for their culinary and medicinal properties.

The elderberry plant yields several well-known products, including elderflower wine and elderberry syrup.

Possible Health Benefits Of Elderberry

Elderberries have various substances and compounds that might offer various impacts on health. While the fruit is best used in jams and sauces, it can be poisonous if eaten raw. From elderberry flowers to elderberry leaves, let’s look at some of their health benefits:

1. Relieving Cold and Flu Symptoms

A review1 suggested that elderberries could offer antioxidant and antiviral effects. However, it’s important to note that the review’s authors emphasized the need for further research in this area.

In a study2, 60 individuals experiencing flu-like symptoms were administered 15 ml of elderberry syrup four times daily. There was a significant improvement in their symptoms four days earlier than those who received clinical treatment.

Additionally, in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, researchers investigated the potential of elderberry extract in averting cold-like symptoms among individuals following air travel. Participants were administered tablets comprising 300 mg of elderberry extract combined with 150 mg of rice flour, taken twice daily for 10 days before embarking on their travels. The trial found that using elderberry before and after overseas travel led to a shorter common cold duration and reduced symptoms among travelers, without any adverse effects3.

2. Minimize the Appearance of Wrinkles

Elderberry fruit is rich in flavonoids, suggesting potential anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. These attributes can shield healthy cells from the damaging effects of free radicals, which are implicated in various skin issues.

Elderberries are rich in vitamin A. Furthermore, the ANA suggests that elderberries have the potential to offer skin-soothing benefits, reduce the visibility of age spots, and potentially prevent or minimize the formation of wrinkles4.

3. Rich in Antioxidants

Antioxidants comprise naturally occurring compounds found in various foods, encompassing vitamins, phenolic acids, and flavonoids, which possess the capacity to counteract reactive molecules. Consuming diets rich in antioxidants could prevent chronic diseases5,6.

The elderberry plant’s flowers, fruits, and leaves are a rich source of antioxidants. Notably, among the anthocyanins present in the berries, one exhibits an astonishing 3.5 times the antioxidant potency of vitamin E6,7.

Possible Risks Of Elderberry

Although elderberry shows promise regarding potential benefits, it’s essential to be aware of associated risks when consuming it. The elderberry plant, including its bark, unripe berries, and seeds, contains trace amounts of compounds known as lectins. Excessive consumption of lectins can lead to stomach-related issues.

Furthermore, the elderberry plant contains cyanogenic glycosides, which, under specific conditions, can release cyanide. Cyanide is a toxin in other foods like apricot seeds and almonds. Therefore, it’s crucial to exercise caution and moderation when using elderberry-based products and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns about its consumption8,9.

What Is Pokeberry?

The poke root (Phytolacca americana) is a blossoming shrub featuring distinctive red-pink stems and dark-purple berries. The pokeweed plant is poisonous to humans. Poke berries are the most toxic part.

This poisonous plant originates from the southwestern and eastern parts of the United States but thrives nationwide. Additionally, it can be found in South America, Europe, and Asia.

Other names of poke root include:

  • American Nightshade
  • American Scoke
  • Pokeweed
  • Pokeberry
  • Inkberry

Possible Health Benefits Of Pokeberry

In the past, poke root found its way into various applications, including cuisine, herbal medicine, and fabric dyeing, and even contributed to wine production. However, it’s essential to note that the entire plant is toxic to humans, necessitating specific cooking methods to render it safe.

While laboratory and animal studies have suggested potential medicinal advantages of poke root as an herbal remedy, it’s essential to highlight the absence of human research, which means there needs to be concrete evidence supporting its potential benefits for people.

1. Pokeweed Berries as Cancer Treatment

Scientists are looking into a substance called pokeweed antiviral protein (PAP) found in poke root. PAP can harm cells, leading to their demise.

An experiment conducted on lab animals in 200310 hinted that PAP might also harm breast cancer cells. This potential effect may be due to its impact on cells with gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) receptors, a category that includes specific human breast cancer cells.

Another study from 200411 produced similar findings. However, their results have not been confirmed in human trials.

2. Help with Oral Diseases

Poke roots might possess antibacterial qualities. A 2014 laboratory study12 on animals found that extracts from poke roots were effective in eliminating bacteria that cause gum disease and tooth decay. The researchers suggested that poke root might work by blocking essential enzymes in the bacteria.

Possible Risks Of Pokeberry

The entire poke root plant is harmful to people, with its berries being the most toxic part. Be aware that poke roots can poison your pets, like dogs and other animals. To stay safe, ensure your pets stay away from this plant.

If you consume or use poke root orally or topically, it can lead to the following side effects:

  • Rapid Heart Rate
  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach Cramps

Several Uses Of Pokeweed Plant

Due to its poisonous properties, it is crucial never to ingest poke root unless prepared correctly.

  1. Pook Root Tea: This is made by steeping dried poke root in hot water for several minutes.
  2. Poke Root Oil: It can be made with various carrier oils, such as olive oil.
  3. Poke Root Salve: It is made by infusing oils and beeswax with poke root.

Elderberry vs Pokeberry Health Benefits

Between wild plants and their ripe berries, comparing elderberry and pokeberry reveals the fascinating diversity of nature’s medicinal properties.

Incorporating these wild plants into your holistic health approach can be a rewarding journey, but always remember the importance of proper identification and preparation, and consult with a healthcare professional to ensure they align with your specific health needs.


1 Vlachojannis, J. E., Cameron, M., & Chrubasik, S. (2010). A systematic review on the sambuci fructus effect and efficacy profiles. Phytotherapy Research, 24(1), 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.2729

2 Zakay-Rones Z, Thom E, Wollan T, Wadstein J. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. J Int Med Res. 2004 Mar-Apr;32(2):132-40. doi: 10.1177/147323000403200205. PMID: 15080016.

3 Tiralongo, E., Wee, S. S., & Lea, R. A. (2016). Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Nutrients, 8(4). https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8040182

4 Lin, P., Hwang, E., T. Ngo, H. T., Seo, S. A., & Yi, H. (2019). Sambucus nigra L. Ameliorates UVB-induced photoaging and inflammatory response in human skin keratinocytes. Cytotechnology, 71(5), 1003-1017. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10616-019-00342-1

5 Willcox JK, Ash SL, Catignani GL. Antioxidants and prevention of chronic disease. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2004;44(4):275-95. doi: 10.1080/10408690490468489. PMID: 15462130.

6 Loizzo MR, Pugliese A, Bonesi M, Tenuta MC, Menichini F, Xiao J, Tundis R. Edible Flowers: A Rich Source of Phytochemicals with Antioxidant and Hypoglycemic Properties. J Agric Food Chem. 2016 Mar 30;64(12):2467-74. doi: 10.1021/acs.jafc.5b03092. Epub 2015 Aug 19. PMID: 26270801.

7 Vlachojannis, J. E., Cameron, M., & Chrubasik, S. (2010). A systematic review on the sambuci fructus effect and efficacy profiles. Phytotherapy Research, 24(1), 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.2729

8 Ulbricht C, Basch E, Cheung L, Goldberg H, Hammerness P, Isaac R, Khalsa KP, Romm A, Rychlik I, Varghese M, Weissner W, Windsor RC, Wortley J. An evidence-based systematic review of elderberry and elderflower (Sambucus nigra) by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration. J Diet Suppl. 2014 Mar;11(1):80-120. doi: 10.3109/19390211.2013.859852. Epub 2014 Jan 10. PMID: 24409980.

9 Chaouali N, Gana I, Dorra A, Khelifi F, Nouioui A, Masri W, Belwaer I, Ghorbel H, Hedhili A. Potential Toxic Levels of Cyanide in Almonds (Prunus amygdalus), Apricot Kernels (Prunus armeniaca), and Almond Syrup. ISRN Toxicol. 2013 Sep 19;2013:610648. doi: 10.1155/2013/610648. PMID: 24171123; PMCID: PMC3793392.

10 Yang WH, Wieczorck M, Allen MC, Nett TM. Cytotoxic activity of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH)-pokeweed antiviral protein conjugates in cell lines expressing GnRH receptors. Endocrinology. 2003 Apr;144(4):1456-63. doi: 10.1210/en.2002-220917. PMID: 12639929.

11 Qi L, Nett TM, Allen MC, Sha X, Harrison GS, Frederick BA, Crawford ED, Glode LM. Binding and cytotoxicity of conjugated and recombinant fusion proteins targeted to the gonadotropin-releasing hormone receptor. Cancer Res. 2004 Mar 15;64(6):2090-5. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.can-3192-2. PMID: 15026348.

12 Patra, J. K., Kim, E. S., Oh, K., Kim, J., Kim, Y., & Baek, H. (2014). Antibacterial effect of crude extract and metabolites of Phytolacca americana on pathogens responsible for periodontal inflammatory diseases and dental caries. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 14. https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6882-14-343


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