Are Elderberries an Effective Flu Remedy?

Are Elderberries an Effective Flu Remedy?

A new review, published by the Journal of Dietary Supplements, has found that consuming elderberries may help to shorten the duration of flu symptoms. So what is it about this small berry that helps?

The Elderberry Effect

Elderberries are the fruit of the Elder plant, a large shrub or small tree that grows up to 30ft in height. The berries have been used traditionally to treat skin wounds and as a treatment for respiratory illnesses such as cold and flu. Elderberries are rich in vitamin C, but they must be cooked before they are consumed. Raw berries contain a chemical that is similar to cyanide. Elderberries have been found to contain large quantities of flavonoids; compounds that are thought to reduce swelling, fight inflammation, and boost the immune system.

The Health Benefits of Elderberries

The Journal of Dietary Supplements review, conducted by scientists at the Natural Standard Research Collaboration, studied three separate elderberry trials. In these trials, participants took elderberry supplements in the form of syrups or lozenges. The scientists determined that there is good scientific evidence that elderberries help with flu symptoms, but that more research is needed. They recommended further studies comparing traditional flu medications with elderberry remedies.

A previous study looked at the effect of a popular elderberry extract, Sambucol, and its impact on flu symptoms. The study found that in some cases, the extract shortened the duration of flu symptoms by approximately 3 days. Because Sambucol contains vitamin C, scientists were unable to determine if it was the elderberries alone that shortened the flu in the test subjects, the vitamin C, or a combination of both factors.

Limitations with these studies include an inadequate understanding of how the unique properties of the elderberry work in limiting the effects of certain viruses. Elderberries contain anthocyanins, pigments that scientists believe boost the immune system, but more research needs to be conducted into their effects.

Elderberry Syrup and Popular Elderberry Products

SignatureMD doctors can help you to decide if you should take elderberry products to help with flu symptoms. There are many elderberry products on the market, here are 3 popular supplements:

Sambucol Elderberry Syrup

Elderberry Syrup or Tablets

Sambucol is one of the most popular elderberry products available in the U.S. It comes in the form of syrup or tablets. Sambucol contains black elderberry extract and is rich in vitamin C. This product also contains zinc.

Elderberry Lozenges

Elderberry Lozenges

Nature’s Way Sambucus Original Lozenges, contain a bio-certified elderberry extract, vitamin C, zinc, echinacea angusifolia (root), and echinacea purpurea (flower).

Elderberry Tea

Elderberry Tea

Various herbal tea companies sell elderberry tea. Traditional Medicinals Organic Echinacea Elder Herbal Tea is a popular brand containing organic echinacea purpurea, organic black elderflower, and organic ginger rhizome, among other ingredients.

In some cases, consuming elderberry may have side effects or interact with other medications, so it’s important to consult with your doctor before you take any elderberry supplements. Elderberries should also never be consumed raw. The raw berries can be poisonous. Most doctors still recommend a flu shot as the most effective way of preventing the flu, but elderberries may be a good option if you are already experiencing flu symptoms.

Sources:
http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304428004579355381156650444 – Elderberry as a Flu Remedy. The Wall Street Journal.
http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/elderberry – Elderberry. University of Maryland Medical Center.
http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/lifestyle-guide-11/supplement-guide-elderberry – Vitamins and Supplements Lifestyle Guide. Elderberry. WebMD.

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