It's that time of year when I start getting my herbal medicine kit ready for winter. One of my perennial favorites is elderberry (sambucol) for its cold and flu fighting properties.
Elderberry has been used in folk medicine for centuries to combat cough and respiratory infections and now its efficacy is affirmed by modern science.
Studies suggest it is best to take elderberry with first onset of symptoms, as it shortens the severity and duration of colds and flu. Researchers believe this herb actually inactivates flu viruses and stimulates the immune system (1). There are few known side effects with short term use, which is considered less than five days. (2)
The National Institute of Health Office of Complimentary Medicine acknowledges elderberry's efficacy in studies, but would like more data before recommending this herb as a first line of defense in combating flu. I, however, was convinced by the data I saw and decided to try elderberry during last winter season. Take a look.
J Altern Complement Med. 1995 Winter;1(4):361-9.
Inhibition of influenza virus strains in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract during an outbreak of influenza B Panama
Elderberry inhibited replication of various influenza virus types during an outbreak in Panama.
This was a placebo-controlled double blind study.Randomized Study of Efficacy and Safety of Oral Elderberry Extract in the Treatment of Influenza A and B- Infections
Randomized, placebo-controlled, double blind study during an influenza season in Norway. In the elderberry group symptoms were relieved an average of four days earlier and they required significantly less rescue medication than the control group.
BMC Complement Altern Med. 2011; 11: 16.
Inhibitory activity of a standard elderberry liquid against clinically relevant human bacterial pathogens and human influenza A and B viruses
Found elderberry liquid extract treatment reduces spread of the virus in cell culture.
Anti-inBiosci Biotechnol Biochem, 76(9):1633-8, 2012
Influenza virus effects of elderberry juice and its fractions
Elderberry stimulated immune response and prevented viral infection in mice.
Altern Med Rev, 10(1):51-4, Mar 2005
Monograph, Sambucus nigra (elderberry)
Phytochemistry. 2009 Jul;70(10):1255-61
Elderberry flavonoids bind to and prevent H1N1 infection in vitro
other Res. 2010 Jan;24(1):1-8. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2729.
A systematic review on the sambuci fructus effect and efficacy profiles.
A comprehensive review of available studies found that elderberry seems to be useful in viral influenza infections. However, the authors would like to see more research done before elderberry is recommended as standard treatment protocol for flu.
I took elderberry with symptom onset and sometimes I ended up not getting sick at all. Two times I took it a few days into a cold and those illness were mild and short. I've never had the flu.
Raw elderberries are toxic and should never be eaten. Only product made from elderberry syrup is safe for consumption. I only buy mine from high quality, reputable suppliers. My favorite brand is Gaia Herbs Organic Elderberry.
Who Should Not Take Elderberry
-People with autoimmune conditions should check with their doctor first, as elderberry can stimulate the immune system.
-Pregnant and nursing women
1 Elderberry Fights Flu Symptoms - Web MD
2 Elderberry - The University of Maryland
3 European Elder - National Institute of Health
4 Flu Fighters: Natural Ways To Fight Flu This Winter - Fox News
**This article is for research purposes and is not intended as medical advise.
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Tags: Elderberry for cold and flu, Elderberry research, herbs, herbal medicine