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Help beat the winter flu with Elderberry


Help beat the winter flu with Elderberry

With the flu season fast approaching, we need to start thinking about ways to boost our immune system beyond the jab, writes TRUDY KITHER.

There are additional preventative measures and one worth keeping in your medicine cupboard this winter is Elderberry (Sambucus nigra).

Elderberry has been used for thousands of years by native Americans and people of the Mediterranean and surrounding regions.  According to ethnobotanical research, it is still one of the most widely used plants worldwide. Berries are used primarily as antiviral agents for colds, influenza and the herpes virus.

Clinical research shows that high quality elderberry extracts may reduce flu-like symptoms, have anti-viral, immunomodulating and antioxidant effects while also containing insulin-stimulating properties.

The berries have been scientifically proven to contain Vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B9, C and E and trace elements such as copper, zinc and iron, with minerals of potassium, calcium and magnesium.

It also contains phytochemicals of carotenoids, phytosterols and polyphenols in each little berry.

Elderberries have a higher antioxidant capacity than vitamin C or E, and in addition to colds, they are also used to relieve symptoms of asthma, arthritis and constipation.

The scientific tests showed that it prevents influenza infection by stopping the flu virus binding to host cells to begin their destruction.

An Israeli virologist demonstrated that the elderberry constituents neutralize the activity of influenza A and B and the herpes virus. When these viruses are deactivated, they can no longer pierce the cell walls or enter the cells and replicate.

Elderberry has a significant effect on cold duration and cold associated symptoms and during tests it was shown that the placebo group had significantly longer duration of cold symptoms (over 7-8 days) compared to the elderberry group with 3-4 days.

The study group showed that administration of a high-quality elderberry extract demonstrated pronounced improvement in most symptoms – fever, headache, muscle aches and nasal congestion –

within 24 hours of treatment.

It is also been shown during the tests that elderberry extracts exert an immunomodulating effect in healthy individuals as well as in those with viral infections or other diseases characterized by immune suppression.

They activate a healthy immune system by increasing inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokine production.

In essence, elderberry could therefore have immunostimulatory properties for patients suffering from influenza or immune-depressed cancer patients who are receiving chemotherapy or other treatments.

Elderberry is also active against human bacteria. It possesses antimicrobial activity against both gram-positive bacteria of streptococcus and group C and G streptococci and gram-negative bacterium Branhamelia catarrhalis.

These bacteria are responsible for infections of the upper respiratory tract.

An added bonus is that it has also been shown to inhibit pathogenic bacteria in Helicobacter pylori.

Elderberry has also been found to be beneficial as an adjunct treatment in diabetes 2 management.  It has been shown to be able to dissolve fats and decrease insulin levels by lowering insulin secretion.

Elderberry extract led to a reduction in fasting blood glucose thereby controlling glucose metabolism by correcting high blood sugar.  This study illustrated that Elderberry can be a subacute dietary regimen to improve diabetic complications.

It truly is a miracle berry and it is definitely worth keeping a high-quality bottle of elderberry extract in your medicine cupboard this flu season.

 Trudy Kither is a naturopath and owner at Nature’s Temple. Visit

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