You have no doubt come across a number of news stories talking about how this current flu season has been particularly bad, compared to previous years.
Not only are more people coming down with the flu, but there have been increased rates of visits to the hospital that can be attributed to the flu. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) states that the rate of flu-related outpatient visits for this flu season so far rose to 7.7 percent, which is a significant increase from the usual rate of 2.2 percent.
It has remained that high for a continuous 11 weeks. 1-3 Although it is too early for the CDC to have solid numbers, it estimates that the current 2017-2018 flu season may be as bad as the 2009 pandemic season. It also estimates that there may be as many as 35.6 million illnesses, of which 126.6 million will require medical treatment.1-3
Given these numbers, you are likely seeing an increase of patients in your office who are looking for ways to guard themselves and their families against this year’s cold and flu season. Some research into elderberry extract may help arm them for this serious battle.
What are elderberries?
The elderberry (Sambucus Nigra L.) is a flowering shrub that is native to Europe and America. The fruit has been used since the time of the ancient Greeks to treat a wide variety of ailments, including colds, flu, fever, burns, cuts, and toothaches. The berries are usually made into a syrup or powder to be dissolved in water.
Research about elderberry benefits
A 1995 article published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine discussed the results from a randomized, double-blind study to determine how long it took for improvement between patients who took a preparation including elderberry and those who took a placebo preparation.4 The researchers recorded data regarding fever, feeling of improvement, and time to cure for all patients for six days.
More than 93 percent of those who took the elderberry saw significant symptom improvement within two days, compared to 91 percent of those who took the placebo. Almost 90 percent of those who took elderberry were completely cured within two to three days, while it took six days for the placebo patients to be cured.4
In 2004, the same research group performed another study, published in the Journal of International Medical Research, which also took into consideration cost-effectiveness in terms of whether or not patients required rescue medicine if their flu symptoms dramatically worsened.5
This larger study used a group of 60 patients between the ages of 18 and 54, who had been showing flu symptoms for 48 hours or less. They all received 15 ml of either elderberry or a placebo syrup, four time a day for five days. Those who took the elderberry syrup showed relief of symptoms four days sooner than did those taking the placebo syrup and needed significantly less rescue medication to do so.5
Flu season can be particularly dangerous for the elderly, children who are too you to receive a vaccination or those who are immune-compromised, such as cancer patients.
- Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report: 2017-2018 Influenza Season Week 5 Ending Feb. 3, 2018. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Accessed 3/24/2018.
- Flu still on the rise, hospitalizations high, CDC says. CNN. Accessed 3/24/2018.
- Frequently Asked Flu Questions 2017-2018 Influenza Season. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Accessed 3/24/2018.
- Zakay-Rones Z, Varsano N, Zlotnik M, et al. (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. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 1(4), 361-369.
- 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), 132-1340.