Many foods and food components boost the immune system, but little data are available regarding the mechanisms by which they do. Bacterial strains have disparate effects in stimulating the immune system. In dendritic cells, the gram-negative bacteria Escherichia coli upregulates proinflammatory cytokines, whereas gram-positive Lactobacillus acidophilus induces a robust interferon (IFN)-ß response. The immune-modulating effects of astragalus root and elderberry fruit extracts were examined in bone marrow-derived murine dendritic cells that were stimulated with L. acidophilus or E. coli. IFN-ß and other cytokines were measured by ELISA and RT-PCR. Endocytosis of fluorescence-labeled dextran and L. acidophilus in the presence of elderberry fruit or astragalus root extract was evaluated in dendritic cells. Our results show that both extracts enhanced L. acidophilus-induced IFN-ß production and slightly decreased the proinflammatory response to E. coli. The enhanced IFN-ß production was associated with upregulation of toll-like receptor 3 and to a varying degree, the cytokines IL-12, IL-6, IL-1ß and TNF-a. Both extracts increased endocytosis in immature dendritic cells, and only slightly influenced the viability of the cells. In conclusion, astragalus root and elderberry fruit extracts increase the IFN-ß inducing activity of L. acidophilus in dendritic cells, suggesting that they may exert antiviral and immune-enhancing activity.