Winter is in full swing and that means something different to everyone. Whether you’re someone who prefers cozy days with a book, skiing down icy mountains, or simply enjoying the colder weather, the same question is on everyone’s mind: how can I stay healthy this season? Instead of adding to your stockpile of tissues, antihistamines, and vitamin C tablets, try reaching for something a little different that’s been shown to work: elderberry.
This flowering plant, also called Sambucus, is known for its use in folk medicine and dates back to 400 BC when Hippocrates referred to elderberry as the “medicine chest” due to its wide range of uses. While the father of medicine wasn’t far off, research has since shown us more scientific mechanisms of elderberry and its benefits. Most notably, in several studies, using elderberry was linked to reduced severity and duration of cold episodes.
Mechanism of action and key research
Elderberries contain compounds called flavonoids, which include anthocyanin, a powerful antioxidant that’s been shown to provide protection against inflammation, viruses, and even some types of cancer. Studies involving elderberry flavonoids indicate that it has protective effects against swine flu. This is due to its proposed mechanism of action of binding to receptors that would allow the virus to enter the host cell, which stops it from spreading. Additional research studying elderberry suggests that its extract has antiviral effects due to its ability to inhibit several influenza strains from replicating. Other studies have demonstrated elderberry’s ability to increase inflammatory cytokine production, including those that can fight tumors and viruses.
Where elderberry may particularly shine is in protecting the body from cold symptoms. One especially interesting clinical trial studied 312 air passengers traveling overseas from Australia. This was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study (a gold standard study protocol). Passengers either took elderberry or a placebo for 10 days before travel and for 4-5 days after travel while recording their cold symptoms each day. At the end of the trial, those in the elderberry group who reported cold symptoms experienced significantly fewer days of sickness and fewer symptoms than those in the placebo group. Although more research is needed to explore elderberry’s potential benefits, the future’s looking bright.
A healthy dose of realism
While all of these studies sound great, it’s important to call out that elderberry research is still young. One thing is clear though and we hate to be the bearer of bad news, but elderberry is not your magical cure-all pill—because there likely isn’t one out there. It’s still critical to support your immune health through proper diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management. What these studies are showing us is that elderberry may be one tool in your toolbox for supporting a healthy and resilient immune system.
Who could benefit from elderberry supplements?
Unfortunately, fresh elderberry contains cyanide, making it inedible. The elderberry you would find in your Baze supplements has been cooked and freed of toxins, so you’re able to fully enjoy all of its benefits. If you want elderberry included in your daily packs, take a moment to speak with one of our dietitians to see if it’s right for you. We’ll discuss the pros and cons, and how to include it in your pack. We ultimately base your recommendation on your response to our validated questionnaire about immunity—because as always, we believe you should only be taking the targeted nutrients and supplements you actually need.
This blog by Baze is for information purposes only and should not take the place of medical advice. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Barak, V., Halperin, T., & Kalickman, I. (n.d.). The effect of Sambucol, a black elderberry-based, natural product, on the production of human cytokines: I. Inflammatory cytokines. European Cytokine Network, 12(2), 290–296. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11399518
Kong, F.-K. (2009). Pilot Clinical Study on a Proprietary Elderberry Extract: Efficacy in Addressing Influenza Symptoms (Vol. 5). Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/367d/1c92716b6be462f26dbfe6c223863dc78464.pdf
Murkovic, M., Abuja, P. M., Bergmann, A. R., Zirngast, A., Adam, U., Winklhofer-Roob, B. M., & Toplak, H. (2004). Effects of elderberry juice on fasting and postprandial serum lipids and low-density lipoprotein oxidation in healthy volunteers: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 58(2), 244–249. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601773
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (n.d.). European Elder Fact Sheet. Retrieved September 11, 2019, from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/euroelder
Netzel, M., Strass, G., Herbst, M., Dietrich, H., Bitsch, R., Bitsch, I., & Frank, T. (2005). The excretion and biological antioxidant activity of elderberry antioxidants in healthy humans. Food Research International, 38(8–9), 905–910. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.FOODRES.2005.03.010
Tiralongo, E., Wee, S., & Lea, R. (2016). Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Nutrients, 8(4), 182. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8040182
Zakay-Rones, Z., Thom, E., Wollan, T., & Wadstein, J. (2004). Randomized Study of the Efficacy and Safety of Oral Elderberry Extract in the Treatment of Influenza A and B Virus Infections. Journal of International Medical Research, 32(2), 132–140. https://doi.org/10.1177/147323000403200205
Zakay-Rones, Z., Varsano, N., Zlotnik, M., Manor, O., Regev, L., Schlesinger, M., & Mumcuoglu, M. (1995). Inhibition of Several 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, 1(4), 361–369. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.1995.1.361