If you want to protect yourself against influenza this winter, elderberry extract is what you really need. Every winter seasonal flu strikes down many of us, and not to mention other deadly strains of influenza that in more recent times have become worrying pandemics.
Sambucus nigra L. products – Sambucol – are based on a standardized black elderberry extract. They are natural remedies with antiviral properties, especially against different strains of influenza virus. Sambucol was shown to be effective in vitro against 10 strains of influenza virus. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study, Sambucol reduced the duration of flu symptoms to 3-4 days.
A different study by the Journal of International Medical Research also states that elderberry has been used in folk medicine for centuries to treat influenza, colds and sinusitis, and has been reported to have antiviral activity against influenza and herpes simplex. We investigated the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry syrup for treating influenza A and B infections.Sixty patients (aged 18 – 54 years) suffering from influenza-like symptoms for 48 h or less were enrolled in this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study during the influenza season of 1999 – 2000 in Norway. Patients received 15 ml of elderberry or placebo syrup four times a day for 5 days, and recorded their symptoms using a visual analogue scale.Symptoms were relieved on average 4 days earlier and use of rescue medication was significantly less in those receiving elderberry extract compared with placebo. Elderberry extract seems to offer an efficient, safe and cost-effective treatment for influenza.Elderberry has been known to have been used as far back as 400BC, when Hippocrates referred to the elderberry bush as his “medicine chest”, and it has been referenced in ancient medicinal texts for centuries.Pliny the Elder also recorded in his texts it being used by the ancient Romans. Antivirin is the important component scientists have identified in the black elderberry, and this actively prevents healthy cells from being invaded by the flu virus.The main flavonoids present in elderberries are the anthocyanins cyanidin 3-glucoside and cyanidin 3-sambubioside, and are detectable in plasma after oral intake of elderberry extract. A possible mechanism of action of elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza is that the flavonoids stimulate the immune system by enhancing production of cytokines by monocytes.In addition, elderberry has been shown to inhibit the haemagglutination of the influenza virus and thus prevent the adhesion of the virus to the cell receptors. Anthocyanins also have an anti inflammatory effect comparable to that of acetylsalicylic acid; this could explain the pronounced effect on aches, pain and fever seen in the group treated with elderberry syrup.In recent times pandemics such as avian flu have become a worry far greater than the seasonal flu. According to the CDC, avian flu has a mortality rate of 60% in the 600 cases reported worldwide, and there is a real fear that the virus can mutate to make it harder to combat.Fortunately, according to a study by Zacay-Rones in 1995, black elderberry was proven to be effective against the avian flu, especially the Panama B strain “A standardized elderberry extract, Sambucol (SAM), reduced hemagglutination and inhibited replication of human influenza viruses type A/Shangdong 9/93 (H3N2), A/Beijing 32/92 (H3N2), A/Texas 36/91 (H1N1), A/Singapore 6/86 (H1N1), type B/Panama 45/90, B/Yamagata 16/88, B/Ann Arbor 1/86, and of animal strains from Northern European swine and turkeys, A/Sw/Ger 2/81, A/Tur/Ger 3/91, and A/Sw/Ger 8533/91 in Madin-Darby canine kidney cells.A placebo-controlled, double blind study was carried out on a group of individuals living in an agricultural community (kibbutz) during an outbreak of influenza B/Panama in 1993.Fever, feeling of improvement, and complete cure were recorded during 6 days. Sera obtained in the acute and convalescent phases were tested for the presence of antibodies to influenza A, B, respiratory syncytial, and adenoviruses.Convalescent phase serologies showed higher mean and mean geometric hemagglutination inhibition (HI) titers to influenza B in the group treated with SAM than in the control group. A significant improvement of the symptoms, including fever, was seen in 93.3% of the cases in the SAM-treated group within 2 days, whereas in the control group 91.7% of the patients showed an improvement within 6 days (p < 0.001).A complete cure was achieved within 2 to 3 days in nearly 90% of the SAM-treated group and within at least 6 days in the placebo group (p < 0.001). No satisfactory medication to cure influenza type A and B is available.Considering the efficacy of the extract in vitro on all strains of influenza virus tested, the clinical results, its low cost, and absence of side-effects, this preparation could offer a possibility for safe treatment for influenza A and B.The effective ingredient, Sambucol is known to reduce both the symptoms and duration of flu sufferers.Flu sufferers who take Sambucol are known to take fewer over the counter medicines whilst affected. Thom’s findings were presented at the 15th Annual Conference on Antiviral Research in 2002. The study has been accepted for publication in the Journal of International Medical Research.The study involved 60 patients who had been suffering with flu symptoms for 48 hours or less; 90% were infected with the A strain of the virus, 10% were infected with type B. Half the group took 15 milliliters of Sambucol or and the other group took a placebo four times a day for five days. Patients in the Sambucol group had “pronounced improvements” in flu symptoms after three days: Nearly 90% of patients had complete cure within two to three days.Also, the Sambucol group had no drowsiness, the downside of many flu treatments. The placebo group didn’t recover until at least day six; they also took more painkillers and nasal sprays.” (source) In this particular study, children were given 1/2 teaspoon of Sambucol extract four times a day and adults 1 teaspoon four times a day. It should be noted that only the active ingredient in elderberry extract has been tested in these studies.To harness the benefits of black elderberry, and more importantly, the active ingredient Sambucol, there are a number of ways it can be taken-taking the extract directly, add to honey and hot water to produce an elderberry tea, or added to regular drinks such as water and juices or smoothies. Further research is being conducted on the possible positive effects of Sambucol to treat allergies, cancer, HIV and inflammatory disorders.There have been no reported ill side-effects from taking Sambucol and it it safe for both children over the age of two and the elderly.