Elderberry Extract for the Flu?

Elderberry itself has long been  used in folk medicine to treat influenza, colds and sinusitis, and has been reported to have antiviral activity against influenza and other viruses.   Some research suggests that elderberry extract is effective for treating ‘the flu’ or influenza infections.

Elderberry RCT for Influenza A/B Infections:

Researchers from Norway published the results of a randomized controlled trial (RCT) which studied the effect of oral elderberry syrup for treating clinically diagnosed Influenza A and B infections (Zackay-Rones et al, 2004).  The researchers additionally used laboratory confirmation methods to confirm infection with either influenza A or B viruses.

The study itself included sixty patients between the ages of 18-54.

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.”

For this study, patients received a dose of 15 ml of Elderberry extract, Sambucol®, which they took 4 times per day (q.i.d.) for 5 days.  The study itself was sponsored by the manufacturer of this product.

Update: A more recent study in vitro found that Elderberry extract was effective at preventing H1N1 infection (Roschek et al, 2009).

From the study authors:

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).

Though promising, more research is necessary to confirm the effectiveness of elderberry extract at preventing H1N1 infection.

Update: for more information on natural cold and flu remedies, follow the link.

References:

  1. Zakay-Rones Z, Thom E, Wollan T, Wadstein J. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. J Int Med Res. 2004 Mar-Apr;32(2):132-40.
  2. Roschek B Jr, Fink RC, McMichael MD, Li D, Alberte RS.  Elderberry flavonoids bind to and prevent H1N1 infection in vitro.  Phytochemistry. 2009 Jul;70(10):1255-61. Epub 2009 Aug 12.