Investigating the Effects of Sambucus nigra on the Adaptive Immune Response In Vivo


Paul Messier, Daniella Mendez Paddila

Faculty Mentor(s)

Gabrielle Stryker (Biological Sciences)


Elderberry extracts, obtained from the berries of the plant Sambucus nigra, are marketed as an immune stimulant and are widely available. Previous research has suggested that bioactive components of elderberry extract exhibit anti-inflammatory and, in other studies, pro-inflammatory effects in immune cells. Much of the body of research done with elderberry has involved in vitro studies. However, there are few in vivo studies of elderberry to date, which is the real test of immune bioactivity. The goal of this study is to investigate the effects of a commercially available elderberry extract on the adaptive immune response. We carried out an in vivo study of BALB/c mice measuring their immune response to a foreign protein (ovalbumin (OVA)) while being dosed with elderberry. The mice were trained to eat gelatin to receive the elderberry and were then immunized with an adjuvant, with half receiving OVA in their immunization. Following immunization, the mice were given gelatin with or without elderberry for a period of 10 days to allow an immune response to be generated. After one-month, blood and immune cells were collected from the groups to measure the immune response generated to OVA. Both the T-cell and the B cell responses were measured with ELISAs. The T-cell responses were below detectable levels after a single immunization. The OVA-specific serum antibody levels were high and there was no significant difference in mice fed elderberry while developing an immune response to OVA. Thus, there was no demonstratable effect of elderberry on the adaptive immune response.



11 thoughts on “Investigating the Effects of Sambucus nigra on the Adaptive Immune Response In Vivo”

  1. Nice presentation. I was wondering how the dose you gave the mice compared to the common dose taken in humans?

  2. Great presentation on important research! I have a couple questions…
    Paul- What were some of the obstacles in training the mice to eat the formulated food, if any?
    Daniela- How do you prevent non-specific binding in the ELISA assay?

    1. Hi Kylie,
      At first, the mice would not touch the food at all. It took several weeks of introducing the mice to the food to make them more comfortable eating it. I eventually realized I may want to mix some of their normal food into the Jell-o vehicle and at that point it became much easier.

  3. Allyson Rogan-Klyve

    Excellent work on this study and presentation. This might be a bit outside of the scope of your work, but I am wondering if in any of your research you came across information about how/why elderberry was identified originally as a potential remedy.

    1. Hi Dr. Rogan-Klyve,
      During the background research for this project I found some sources talking about the use of elderberry as traditional medicines in Europe and North America. I couldn’t find any information about how it was discovered that it had medicinal properties though.

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