Elderberry: Nature’s Flu Fighter?

Is Elderberry nature’s flu fighter? It just might be.

Her love affair with elderberry began innocently enough. 3 years ago, my wife was hit with the flu, followed by a nasty cold, followed, again, by the flu. She is normally full of energy, but this non-stop onslaught truly took the wind out of her sails.

On the advice of someone at a local health food store, she finally tried a bottle of elderberry extract. In her mind, it couldn’t hurt, right? And frankly, she was tiring of chicken soup and tea. Within 3 days, she was completely better. No fever. No runny nose, sore throat, cough…not one sign of ill health remained. Her energy restored, she was sold.

 

Nowadays, at the very first sneeze or drippy nose, the elderberry is immediately put to use. My children even request it if they’re not feeling 100%. I, too, have jumped on the elderberry bandwagon, especially with the number of people I come into close contact with on a daily basis, and with the flu rates in the Dallas area on the rise.

 

What is Elderberry?

Elderberry, or elder, has been used for centuries to treat wounds when applied to the skin. It is also taken by mouth to treat respiratory illnesses such as cold and flu. In many countries, including Germany, elder flower is used to treat colds and flu. Some evidence suggests that chemicals in elder flower and berries may help reduce swelling in mucous membranes, such as the sinuses, and help relieve nasal congestion. Elder may have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anticancer properties.

Elderberry also contains flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties and may help prevent damage to the body’s cells. However, very few studies have been done in humans, so researchers don’t know how effective elder may be.

There are several species of elder, but Sambucus nigra, or European elder (also called black elder), is the one used most often for medicinal purposes. It can be purchased as a liquid form, syrup (with or without sweetener), tincture, as well as powdered, capsule and lozenge form. My wife and children prefer the syrup added to a glass of water. Since hydration is especially important when you’re ill, it’s an ideal way to not only get your dose of elderberry, but added liquids as well. Though the lozenges are portable, thus making it easy to pop one as needed.

 

Research:

One study suggested that using a standardized elderberry extract, Sambucol, could shorten the duration of flu by about 3 days. Sambucol also contains other herbs plus vitamin C, so no one knows whether elderberry by itself would have the same effect. Another preliminary study found that a lozenge with elderberry extract (ViraBLOC) helped reduce flu symptoms when taken within 24 hours of symptoms starting. In the lab, one study suggested that elderberry could kill the H1N1 virus (“swine flu”) in test tubes, but researchers don’t know whether it would be effective against H1N1 in people.

 

Bacterial Sinusitis (Sinus Infection)

One study examined the use of a proprietary product, Sinupret, to treat bacterial sinusitis along with an antibiotic (doxycycline or Vibramycin) and a decongestant. People who took the combination did better compared to those who did not take Sinupret. However, Sinupret contains other herbs along with elderberry, so no one knows whether taking elderberry alone would work as well.

 

Recommended Dosages:

 

Pediatric

Normal dosage is 1 teaspoon per day of the elderberry syrup per day for maintenance; 1 teaspoons up to four times per day for intensive care.  But always a good idea to talk to your pediatrician before giving anything new to our child.

 

Adult

  • Sinupret: 2 tablets taken three times a day for bacterial sinusitis
  • Sambucol: 4 tbsp. a day for three days for colds and flu
  • Tea: Steep 3 – 5 g dried elder flower in 1 cup boiling water for 10 – 15 minutes. Strain and drink three times per day.

Precautions

The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should use herbs only under the supervision of a health care provider.

Do not use unripe or uncooked elderberries. They may be poisonous.

Elderberry appears to have few side effects when used properly for short periods of time (up to 5 days).

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take elderberry.

If you have an autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, you should ask your doctor before taking elderberry, as it may stimulate the immune system.

Possible Interactions

If you are being treated with any of the following medications, you should talk to your health care provider before taking elderberry:

Diuretics (water pills) — Diuretics help the body get rid of excess fluid and increase the amount of urine your body makes. Elderberry may also act as a diuretic, so taking it along with a diuretic could make that drug stronger and raise your risk of dehydration. Diuretics include:

  • Hydrochlorothiazide
  • Bumetanide (Burinex)
  • Furosemide (Lasix)
  • Amiloride (Midamor)
  • Metolazone (Zaroxolyn)

 

Source: Elderberry | University of Maryland Medical Center http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/elderberry#ixzz2n1WAAuLu
University of Maryland Medical Center
 

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