Elderberry, also known by its scientific name, Sambucus, is a wonderful supplement for the immune system due to its potent antiviral properties. It’s been studied extensively in regards to the flu. Research has found that in people infected with the influenza virus, elderberry supplementation reduced symptoms four days earlier than placebo groups. Elderberry has even been shown to be of similar (and even greater) effectiveness to the prescription anti-viral Tamiflu but without the side effects.
Elderberry is definitely effective against the flu, but as awful as the flu virus is, it’s estimated that only about a quarter (or less) of illnesses with “flu-like” symptoms are actually as a result of the influenza virus; most of the time, those flu-like symptoms are a result of viral respiratory infections.
The nice thing about elderberry is that it’s effective not only against the flu virus, but on viruses in general. It has been found in studies to “substantially reduce upper respiratory symptoms”.
Antibiotic misuse and over-prescription are becoming a real problem since it contributes to antibiotic-resistant bacteria and a host of other problems. The CDC has said that roughly 30 percent of antibiotic prescriptions are prescribed unnecessarily. The development of antibiotics has saved many lives, though their overuse is troubling since unfortunately, they do nothing against the viruses that are the cause of the majority of winter illnesses people experience.
Elderberry is a wonderful alternative since it has potent antiviral activity in the body. Scientists believe that part of the way it works is by actually deactivating viruses like the flu, helping the body to be able to fight them off easier.
While the flu can be serious, what is much more common is the upper respiratory infection known as the common cold. Americans on average experience on average 2-3 colds per year as adults and children average more than double that number, averaging 5-7 colds per year. Studies are now confirming what natural health experts have been saying for years, that elderberry is also effective against colds.
In one study done on people flying overseas, scientists wanted to see if elderberry was effective against upper respiratory infections and colds, and also if it could help in reducing the duration of the common cold since long overseas flights are a hotbed of germs and people frequently get sick after a long flight.
The study found that of the passengers who did get sick with a cold or respiratory infection after their flights, the people taking elderberry felt sick for a much shorter time than those using the placebo. On average, the group prescribed elderberry extract felt better over two days earlier than those using the placebo during their colds. Also, the severity of their cold symptoms were greatly reduced in the elderberry group when compared to those using the placebo.
Another new meta-analysis on elderberry which was just done this year, found that elderberry was able to reduce the symptoms of upper respiratory infection regardless of the cause, which is helpful since it can be extremely difficult to pinpoint a specific viral strain just by symptoms, since even the “common cold” can make a person feel pretty awful.
Elderberry can be used preventatively, but really shines in reducing illness once you’re sick, so I would definitely recommend having a bottle or two at home in case anyone in your family does fall ill this season, since unfortunately for most of us, it’s a question not of “if” but of “when”, since elderberry can not only shorten the duration of viral illnesses but also reduce the severity of the symptoms you experience.
When taking elderberry for an illness, the general recommendation is for adults to take a dose four times a day, which can really help with knocking out a cold.
We have a number of great elderberry syrups available at the store, which are each helpful for different people and different needs. The elderberry syrup we’ve most often recommended is one by Nature’s Answer that’s a high potency elderberry without added sugar. It’s great for adults, but most kids balk at the taste since elderberry syrup in its natural form without sweetener can be a little bitter. For kids (or picky adults), another elderberry syrup we have is by Nature’s Way and is often better tolerated, since while it isn’t as strong as our one by Nature’s Answer, it is much better tasting since it is a bit sweetened and is actually pretty delicious.
We have yet another elderberry syrup that I’ve just started using that I really like. It’s a traditional folk recipe for elderberry syrup by Honey Gardens. It combines organic elderberry with organic honey and propolis, another bee product that is strongly antimicrobial, antiviral, and antifungal. It’s actually what bees use to disinfect parts of the hive and keep a hive of thousands healthy. It also contains alcohol, though it must be in small amounts since I feel like it does not have the strong taste of many alcohol-based herbal tinctures. The addition of a small bit of alcohol helps to preserve the blend so it can be kept at room temperature (which is convenient) and also actually can help with the absorption of beneficial herbal compounds in the mixture. Last, it’s mixed with a bit of apple cider vinegar and organic echinacea (another amazing immune-boosting herb).
We’ve carried elderberry syrup by Honey Gardens for a while now, though I had never tasted it, mostly because the ingredients made it sound like it would taste awful (propolis is generally not great tasting, and I don’t really like the taste of alcohol-based liquid extracts), but once I finally bought a bottle I was amazed that it actually tasted good. It’s my new go-to when it comes to elderberry, because of its unique formulation and the addition of other powerful, scientifically-backed ingredients for boosting the immune system.
Last, I wanted to mention another brand new elderberry product by Honey Gardens that we’ve just brought in for cold and flu season. They’re single-serving elderberry drinks called Immune Boost that contain the juice of 300 elderberries in one 10oz. bottle. They’re on introductory sale right now for $2.99 a bottle and are a quick and effective immune boost if you start to feel those beginning signs of sickness.
Also during November, we’re going to be having an elderberry immune sale where we will have our two most recommended elderberry syrups on sale by both Nature’s Answer and Honey Gardens for 25% off, so it’s a great time to stock up before the winter. Also, if you would like to try a sample of the Honey Garden’s elderberry syrup, just ask us next time you’re in the store!
Finally, I wanted to say that there are many other great, natural immune-boosting supplements available, so stop by the store if you would like more information. We are extremely knowledgeable about herbs and natural products and would love to help you choose the best supplements for your specific needs. We’re at 7228 W. College Drive in Palos Heights.