Got the flu? Try elderberries

Becky Oberg's picture

The International Society for Horticultural Science named the elderberry "Herb of the Year" for 2013 due to its potential to prevent and treat illnesses such as the flu.

The first International Elderberry Symposium was hosted by University of Missouri at Columbia from July 9 to 14. Scientists from around the world gathered to share research.

Dennis Lubahn, director of University of Missouri's Center for Botanical Interaction studies, said his team was researching elderberry's folk medicinal benefits. According to tradition, elderberry might help prevent inflammation, strokes and prostate cancer while strengthening the immune system, according to Natural Awakenings magazine. Preliminary results show that two tablespoons of elderberry juice, taken daily, may offer protection against prostate cancer.

According to Natural Awakenings,Dr. Madeleine Mumcouglu of Hebrew University's Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem said elderberry has an as-of-yet unnamed action that prevents viruses from entering human cells and making the person sick. Mumcouglu said elderberry extract may potentially prevent and relieve flu symptoms, including avian flu and swine flu. In addition, it may ease the effects of HIV and the herpes simplex virus. The recommended dose is one tablespoon daily.

Mumcouglu told Natural Awakenings that she believes elderberry extract is safe, but she does not recommend it for pregnant women or people with autoimmune diseases because it is known to stimulate the immune system. "It may be completely risk-free," she said. "We simply don't yet have adequate data for proof."

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According to Wikipedia
, elderberry is known botanically as Sambucus. A Hebrew University study found that elderberry "relieved [flu symptoms] on average 4 days earlier and use of rescue medication was significantly less in those receiving elderberry extract compared with placebo." A study by Hadassah University in Jerusalem concluded an elderberry-based extract known as Sambucol "could also have an immunoprotective or immunostimulatory effect when administered to cancer or AIDS patients, in conjunction with chemotherapeutic or other treatments." Wikipedia reports that elderberry is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, where it is dissolved in wine and used to treat rheumatism and traumatic injury.

WebMD.com reads "Taking an elderberry juice extract is POSSIBLY SAFE when used for up to five days. It’s not known if taking elderberry juice extract is safe when used for long periods of time. The cooked elderberry fruit seems to be safe. But raw and unripe fruit might cause nausea, vomiting, or severe diarrhea."

The recommended dose for the flu, according to WebMD, is "one tablespoon (15 mL) 4 times daily of a specific elderberry juice-containing syrup (Sambucol, Nature’s Way) daily for 3-5 days. A dose of 15 mL (1 tablespoon) twice daily for 3 days has been used in children. A specific elderberry lozenge (ViraBLOC, HerbalScience) 175 mg 4 times daily for 2 days."

Image Source: Wikipedia;