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Does Elderberry Help Your Skin When Used Topically?

Updated: Mar 5

Within the last decade, the popularity of the elderberry plant has grown due in large part to its proven ability to treat the common cold and flu, remove excess mucus, boost immune system functions, and even alleviate many allergy symptoms. A plant that powerful certainly must be effective at treating other ailments, right? That was exactly the question that motivated me to find out if there would be any significant benefits from using elderberry extracts topically on skin.

Elderberry Skin Care

Since the early 2010s, I’ve personally used the plant and its berries in my own homemade tinctures and teas to help ward off many different types of viruses my school-aged children (at that time) would bring home every time a new school year would start. Before I started making my own elderberry medicine, every member of my family would come down with a cold, the flu, or some other viral issue at least once a year. Once we started taking a few drops of the elderberry tincture at the first sign of a virus (i.e. coughing, runny nose, scratchy throat, etc.), we stopped getting sick. In fact, from 2010 to 2018 not one of us came down with anything, not even a common cold. I 100% attribute that ‘no-sickness’ streak to the elderberry plant.

The 'no-sickness' streak ended at the very end of 2019 when my oldest daughter became ill while we were vacationing for the new year in Dallas, TX. I didn’t have any of my elderberry tinctures there, but when we returned home, and she was able to get a dose in her system, the symptoms stopped the next day. I had flu-like symptoms in 2021 while vacationing in Vegas and again didn’t have my tinctures; the symptoms were harsh for the first 12-16 hours. After that I almost felt back to normal, but I had a lingering cough that lasted the rest of the vacation. Once I returned home and dosed up on my tincture, the cough was gone within 24-hours. My two oldest daughters both contracted the Covid-19 virus while away at college, despite being vaccinated. Both took my elderberry tinctures while having the virus. One had very minor symptoms (a scratchy throat and the loss of her taste and smell for a couple days). My other daughter's symptoms were more severe, but nothing that required hospitalization. My husband and I both had flu-like symptoms on two separate occasions this year (2022); both times we were unable to treat the symptoms at the first sign, because we had left the tinctures at home. On both occasions, the symptoms disappeared once we returned home and got that elderberry in our systems. Neither I, my husband, nor my two youngest children have ever tested positive for Covid-19. If we did have it, we certainly didn’t have any severe symptoms. So, yes, I know first-hand about the powerful effects of the elderberry!

Straining elderberry glycerin

Knowing how effective my tinctures were at staving off viruses, I was curious to know how effective the plant might be at treating other ailments. To my surprise, while researching other uses for the plant, I found that our Foundational Black American ancestors used the plant to not only treat internal viral sicknesses, but also topically for treating skin issues. In a recorded interview from the Federal Writer’s Proj