If you have ever had a sniffle, sneeze, cough or any other seasonal ailment, you may have taken this magical berry. For hundreds of years, Elderberry has been used as a natural approach to treating viruses and allergies. It made waves in the early 2000s with a study that showed it outperformed Tamiflu (Oseltamivir) for treatment of various flu strains.(1)
This result was achievable with doses as low as 4 tbsp/day! This was, and still is, big news, especially since the flu virus goes through pandemic-level infection numbers every few years. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) Director, Anthony Fauci, stated that US flu deaths number from 3,000 – 50,000 any given year. Preexisting condition complications and age-related decline make up most of these numbers. Still, the numbers are staggering.
Flu Vaccine vs. Elderberry
Recent findings of the flu vaccine show it is 20% effective at reducing symptoms. That’s 20% at best. And only 40% effective on average at reducing flu onset over the last 10 years.(2)
We can say that the vaccine does tend to slow virus “shedding,” but even those numbers are unimpressive, as noted in this study. The study states that there may be a “95% increase in viral shedding in vaccinated individuals.” BUT, it only refers to 11 subjects out of the entire trial. So, I won’t make a claim here, but it is a bit shaking, nonetheless.
Even the early onset medication Tamiflu has some horrendous side effects. Yet, here’s a plant that grows throughout much of the country that seems to shorten the duration of the flu by up to 4 days! This powerful little shrub even helps ease allergies and upper respiratory issues.
Uses & Benefits
Long-held traditions, both foreign and domestic, have used elderberry as a multi-faceted remedy. Native Americans used the bark for tight tendons. Europeans sip the tea for spiritual well being. Elder has quite a list of helpful effects. But, no effect is better known than its effect on the cold and flu, and respiratory and allergy illnesses. Ever since the 2004 Sambucol study, Elderberry remains in the spotlight, especially during the months of October to April.
It comes in various forms such as syrup, pill, tea, tincture, raw herb, and more. And, it’s no wonder it remains in the spotlight, especially during cold and flu season. Remember, taken in reasonable doses, it can reduce flu symptoms by 4 days!
Effects on the Immune System
Elderberry’s effects can be traced to its ability to up-regulate the immune system’s response to an invader.(3)(4)(5)
These studies point to Elderberry’s ability to slow the spread of infection. As well as its propensity to upregulate some key players in our innate immune response. It does this by inhibiting proinflammatory nitric oxide via the flavonoids. The studies also point to the upregulation in T-cell (killer cell) count and TNF-Alpha. Take the above study where more than 300 flight passengers took elderberry capsules and had their symptoms tracked. The difference in cold diagnoses was not clinically relevant. But, the number of days of effect from cold symptoms for the passengers was. On average, the number of days spent with cold symptoms was half in the elderberry group. Elderberry may not be able to block an invader, but, it is well equipped at quelling the damage from the invasion. And, there are other studies that show elderberry’s protective effect on cells from viral and bacterial binding.(6)(7)
Elderberry and the Antioxidant King, Quercetin
Much of its protective effect is possible by way of elderberry’s stockpile of flavonoids. One of which is quercetin (the king of this antioxidant sub-group). Flavonoids have long been used for inflammation and histamine or allergy relief. Think about the use of bee bi-products for seasonal allergies. Have you ever wondered why they’re effective at easing allergies? One of the main reasons is their high concentration of flavonoids. For an in-depth look at Quercetin and its possible role in the current pandemic, you can read more here.
Further, Elderberry has been shown to block Human Coronavirus NL63 from binding to the ACE-2 receptor sites in human cell cultures.(5)
Specifically, Caffeic Acid, a key constituent within elderberry, blocks the virus from binding at its preferred receptor. This same study was not conducted on the current SARS-Cov-2 (COVID-19) strain of Human Coronavirus, but it uses the same receptor site to gain entry to the cell, and thus, multiply. It is our hope that studies will begin on elderberry’s effect on COVID-19 Human Coronavirus. That way we can verify whether the effects seen in that trial would be as effective on the pandemic level virus.
So, What’s the Verdict?
Should we or shouldn’t we put elderberry in our medicine cabinet for a rainy day? With its known benefits, it should definitely have a spot in our seasonal arsenal. There seems to be a method of dosing for every preference, too! Lozenges, liquids, teas, tablets, capsules and more. When shopping for an elderberry supplement, look at the dosage per serving. Many brands offer “high dose liquid,” but the actual amount of the desired ingredient will be far less than the stated serving amount. Research shows the dose to invest in is in the neighborhood of 1g/serving. This may be in pill or liquid form. And, always look for lower amounts of added sweeteners and other non-essential ingredients. Elderberry is a fantastic companion to go with you on your wellness journey. Whether this time of year or any time of year. And, during pandemics or picnics.
To browse our selection of elderberry products, click here.
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