Author: BioCeuticals - Editor
The Sambucus nigra (elderberry/elderflower) plant has been used traditionally in western herbal medicine for over 2000 years as an upper respiratory tract tonic for viral infections such as the common cold and flu.1,2
The plant has traditional uses for both the flower as well as the berries, hence the common names of elderflowers and elderberries. There are a number of components in elderberry that may give it therapeutic properties. These include the antioxidant flavonoids quercetin and rutin, and vitamins A and C. Elderberry contains micronutrients called polyphenols - which are packed with antioxidants! – as well as anthocyanins, which give the dark purple-black colour of the ripe berries.1 Elderberry is thought to be of use against the symptoms of cold and flu by helping to support healthy immune function through its antioxidant and antiviral properties.3
And it’s not only in traditional medicine that the elder plant has proven its efficacy; research has shown the elder plant to be useful in the treatment of colds, with one pilot study showing elderberry extract to have a significant decrease in flu-like symptoms in the 24 hours after the onset of treatment.4 In another trial, people with the flu were given an oral elderberry syrup to drink, which resulted in their symptoms clearing up four days earlier than those receiving placebo treatment and reduced their use of rescue medication.5 That’s one powerful berry!
But not all elderberries are made equal. In recent years, an extract of elderberry came to the market, known as Eldercraft®, which boasts the highest anthocyanin content of any elderberry extract. The berries used in the extract are grown in Styria, Austria, from Haschberg black elderberry trees known for producing big clusters of anthocyanin-rich berries, grown in unspoiled magnesium rich soil. The Eldercraft® berry extract is an active blend of natural fruit anthocyanins, polysaccharides and berry micronutrients, extracted using Iprona Polyphenol Technology, a unique process that uses zero solvents. It instead uses a filtration process that physically presses the berries and separates the constituents into two streams based on the size of their molecules. This process enables the phytonutrient matrix of the berry to be maintained. 6
A standardised black elderberry extract, Sambucol®, has been shown to inhibit several strains of influenza type A and B in an in vitro study. The extract worked by binding directly to the virus and preventing its ability to adhere to target cells, such as red blood cells, effectively stopping the virus from taking hold. The study further found that these same influenza strains grown on cell cultures were unable to multiply when the culture was first inoculated with the elderberry extract.7
In addition to using elderberry in supporting the immune system, here are some top tips to help support your immune system this winter:
- avoid or minimise refined sugar consumption
- reduce stress and engage in meditation practice or mindfulness
- ensure you are getting eight hours of sleep each night
- eat vitamin C rich foods, such as kiwi fruit and oranges
- eat plenty of onions and garlic, known for their rich allicin content
- consume homemade soups using fresh, vibrant vegetables, herbs and homemade bone broth.
If you would like more information about relieving cold and flu symptoms, please discuss interventions with your healthcare provider. To find a health professional in your local area, please visit our Find a Practitioner page.
1. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database 2019. Viewed 14 March 2019, www.naturaldatabase.com
2. Braun L, Cohen M. Herbs and natural supplements: an evidence-based guide, 3rd ed, 2010. Sydney: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.
3. Bone K. A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs: herbal formulations for the individual patient, 2003. London: Elsevier Health Sciences.
4. Kong F. Pilot clinical study on a proprietary elderberry extract: Efficacy in addressing influenza symptoms. Online J Pharmacol Pharmacokinet 2009; 32–43.
5. Zakay-Rones Z, Thom E, Wollan T & Wadstein J. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. J. Int Med Res 2004; 32, 132–140.
6. ElderCraft®. About – Technology/Certifications. Viewed 24 May 2019, https://www.eldercraft.info/en
7. Zakay-Rones Z, Varsano N, Zlotnik M, et al. Inhibition of severl strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 1995; 1(4), 361-369.