A woman clutches her stomach in pain amid a forest of elderberry branches

A Cold, Elderberry Syrup, and IBS: A Fail

Sometimes, I don’t understand how my brain works. I’ve had IBS for years. I know how sensitive my digestive system is and how careful I need to be about my food and medication. And yet, I sometimes act like I’m an IBS-free human being. But let me start from the beginning.

A different perspective

After having my second baby, I fell into the black hole that is alternative medicine. My baby had food sensitivities and a tongue tie, both of which do not exist according to our pediatrician. So, in order to help my newborn who was losing weight and screaming all day long, I started looking for other ways.

While researching these topics, I started reading more and more about alternative medicine. Mostly in bits and pieces. One thing I came across was medicinal plants, especially elderberry which is thought to help with flu symptoms.

Starting a trial

Knowing that both my kids were going to daycare in the fall, I decided to try it out. And I did. When the first cold hit, we all started taking elderberry syrup, except for the baby of course.

The package stated to take it multiple times a day, and that’s exactly what we did. My toddler and husband tolerated it just fine. They even started feeling better pretty quickly. I, however, not so much.

Unforeseen side effects

At this point, I don’t know what happened. I don’t know why it didn’t even cross my mind that medicinal herbs might have potential side effects. Of course, they do. But I didn’t even check - I only made sure that they were safe to take for my 2-year-old.

I was feeling a bit off for 2 days. Then, I got the worst flare I had had in several months. After 2 hours of diarrhea and nausea, we began wondering if I had caught a stomach bug. Then, my partner decided to look up the potential side effects of elderberry. He’s smart like that. Lo and behold, there they were: nausea and diarrhea, listed as common.

Lesson learned

I felt pretty stupid. Apparently, elderberry can even help constipation. It’s really no wonder that I, with my IBS-D and inability to consume anything even the slightest bit laxative, was unable to handle it. I should have looked. I should have known. But I didn’t.

As a result, I checked all the side effects of the other herbal stuff I had gotten. All of them had diarrhea listed!

Herbs or no herbs?

Ever since this elderberry incident, I started researching herbal remedies more and more. I’ve found multiple things that I can take without any issues, but I now make sure to introduce them slowly and not take too much in case of any side effects.

But elderberry? That one’s not for me. I’d rather ride out the flu. And if an herb is used to treat constipation, I will be sure to avoid taking it altogether!

Have you had any experience with herbal remedies and IBS? Do you have any that work and don’t cause flares? I’d love to know!

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The IrritableBowelSyndrome.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.

Community Poll

Do you have a good understanding of what triggers your flares?