Flu season is back, and it’s a good time to look at the research on a supplement of Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra) and the flu.
While there is no guarantee that any dietary supplement will prevent the flu, there is a lot of very interesting research on how dietary supplements could help reduce the chances of getting flu symptoms.
Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra) is high in antioxidants and has been used in traditional European healing practices.
In research published in the journal Phytochemistry in July 2009, extracts of the elderberry fruit were found to help prevent H1N1 infection. Tests done in vitro found that flavonoids from the elderberry extract blocked the ability of H1N1 to infect host cells. The study concluded that “The H1N1 inhibition activities of the elderberry flavonoids compare favorably to the known anti-influenza activities of Oseltamivir and Amantadine,” (two drugs used to treat flu).
In another study, conducted during flu season in Norway, researchers gave 15 ml. of elderberry syrup four times a day to people suffering from influenza-like symptoms. The results, published in The Journal of International Medical Research, found that “Symptoms were relieved on average 4 days earlier and use of rescue medication was significantly less in those receiving elderberry extract compared with placebo. Elderberry extract seems to offer an efficient, safe and cost-effective treatment for influenza. These findings need to be confirmed in a larger study.”
Read the abstracts below of the research studies for more information.
Phytochemistry. 2009 Jul;70(10):1255-61. “Elderberry flavonoids bind to and prevent H1N1 infection in vitro.”
Roschek B Jr., Fink RC, McMicheal MD, Li D, Alberte RS
A ionization technique in mass spectrometry called Direct Analysis in Real Time Mass Spectrometry (DART TOF-MS) coupled with a Direct Binding Assay was used to identify and characterize anti-viral components of an elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra L.) extract without either derivatization or separation by standard chromatographic techniques. The elderberry extract inhibited Human Influenza A (H1N1) infection in vitro with an IC(50) value of 252+/-34 microg/mL. The Direct Binding Assay established that flavonoids from the elderberry extract bind to H1N1 virions and, when bound, block the ability of the viruses to infect host cells. Two compounds were identified, 5,7,3′,4′-tetra-O-methylquercetin (1) and 5,7-dihydroxy-4-oxo-2-(3,4,5 trihydroxyphenyl)chroman-3-yl-3,4,5-trihydroxycyclohexanecarboxylate (2), as H1N1-bound chemical species. Compound 1 and dihydromyricetin (3), the corresponding 3-hydroxyflavonone of 2, were synthesized and shown to inhibit H1N1 infection in vitro by binding to H1N1 virions, blocking host cell entry and/or recognition. Compound 1 gave an IC(50) of 0.13 microg/mL (0.36 microM) for H1N1 infection inhibition, while dihydromyricetin (3) achieved an IC(50) of 2.8 microg/mL (8.7 microM). The H1N1 inhibition activities of the elderberry flavonoids compare favorably to the known anti-influenza activities of Oseltamivir (Tamiflu; 0.32 microM) and Amantadine (27 microM).
The Journal of International Medical Research, 2004 Mar-Apr;32(2):132-40. “Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections.”
Zakay-Rones Z, Thom E, Wollan T, Wadstein J.
Department of Virology, Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem, Israel.
Elderberry has been used in folk medicine for centuries to treat influenza, colds and sinusitis, and has been reported to have antiviral activity against influenza and herpes simplex. We investigated the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry syrup for treating influenza A and B infections. Sixty patients (aged 18-54 years) suffering from influenza-like symptoms for 48 h or less were enrolled in this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study during the influenza season of 1999-2000 in Norway. Patients received 15 ml of elderberry or placebo syrup four times a day for 5 days, and recorded their symptoms using a visual analogue scale. Symptoms were relieved on average 4 days earlier and use of rescue medication was significantly less in those receiving elderberry extract compared with placebo. Elderberry extract seems to offer an efficient, safe and cost-effective treatment for influenza. These findings need to be confirmed in a larger study.