Elderberry extract shows significant promise in the prevention and treatment of swine flu, and influenza in general. During a pandemic, it is critical that people use common-sense hygiene practices, good nutrition, and appropriate, safe supplements to boost their immunity and prevent viral infections from taking hold or becoming life-threatening.
After two articles, here and here, regarding black elderberry’s benefits for treating and preventing pandemic flu, I fielded many questions from concerned readers about the supplement’s safety and effectiveness. Here are some frequently asked questions about the use of black elderberry for fighting and preventing swine flu:
Does elderberry extract really work against swine flu?
While swine flu is far too new for any large-scale studies to provide conclusive evidence about elderberry’s effectiveness in fighting the current pandemic strain, previous studies give us every reason to believe that it may be a life-saving weapon against any and all forms of influenza. Dozens of peer-reviewed studies (cited at the end of this article) offer strong evidence that elderberry extract significantly decreases the duration and severity of influenza A and B infections.
More importantly, a 2006 study confirmed that black elderberry is 99% effective in destroying the H5N1 bird flu virus– a close relative of the current strain of swine flu– in laboratory settings. If elderberry extract proves to be as effective in combating swine flu as it is in combating common strains of avian and human influenza, it may be a lifesaver.
Can elderberry extract cause a cytokine storm in swine flu patients?
Because the swine flu pandemic has caused deaths mostly in young, healthy people, some virologists have suggested that it is a cytokine storm, not the swine influenza virus itself, that can be acutely life-threatening. Cytokine storms are uncontrolled reactions of the immune system that can result in high fevers, organ damage, and difficulty breathing. For this reason, some immune-stimulating herbs like echinacea and goldenseal may be dangerous in treating swine flu.
Some studies have indicated that one of elderberry’s mechanisms of action is its ability to increase the production of some types of cytokine– the same types that seem to cause “storms” in some patients. However, the anti-inflammatory and anti-viral effects of elderberry may actually prevent a cytokine storm. Out of dozens of controlled studies, none have shown that elderberry supplements make patients more at-risk of experiencing cytokine storms.
Are elderberry supplements safe for children?
Children can take elderberry supplements to prevent or help treat the swine flu pandemic. Many careful studies have failed to show any side effects interactions, or other complications in children, and even young infants can take elderberry extract without any known risk of complication. Because elderberry supplements act by means of powerful, non-toxic antioxidant compounds, they are considered to be very safe for treating swine flu and other strains of influenza in people of all ages.
Elderberry products that contain other “enhancing” ingredients like zinc, propolis, or echinacea should be avoided by young children, since the effects of large doses of these compounds may be detrimental to developing immune systems. One company, Sambucol, makes a supplement especially for children under three.
What are the potential side effects of black elderberry?
Amazingly, no side effects of Sambucol have been recorded in any scientific literature to date. There is no reason to believe that black elderberry can cause unwanted side effects, for swine flu patients or anyone else. One reliable, relatively large study that took place in 1995 showed side effect levels that were similar to placebo.
Like all fruit extracts, elderberry has a risk of causing allergic reactions, but these are extremely rare. People with allergies to other fruits and berries should use caution in taking elderberry for the first time if they have never eaten or consumed elderberry products.
Can elderberry products interact with my medication, or with anti-flu drugs?
Widely published medical data has shown no evidence of interactions between black elderberry products and prescribed medications. Many case reports have shown fast, effective, complete recovery in patients who take black elderberry products along with conventional flu medication, and it shows no signs of interaction with blood pressure or diabetes medicines.
It is very important that anyone with pandemic swine flu take all prescribed medications and adhere to all professional advice. Carefully following your physician’s instructions can save your life in the event of a pandemic outbreak of swine flu or avian flu. Prescription Relenza and Tamiflu are particularly useful in combating these strains, so take elderberry in addition to, not instead of, your prescribed medications.
What else can I take to prevent the swine flu?
Follow basic CDC and WHO guidelines for preventing the spread of disease. Wash your hands regularly, especially after sneezing or coughing. Wear a surgical mask if an outbreak occurs in your area. Exercise, eat well, and take a good multivitamin or antioxidant supplement. Good general health and common-sense hygiene practices can be life-saving for people who are at risk of contracting pandemic flu.
More information about using natural supplements to treat or prevent swine flu can be read here and here. More information about elderberry itself can be found here.
“The effect of Sambucol, a black elderberry-based, natural product, on the production of human cytokines: I. Inflammatory cytokines.” Immunology Laboratory for Tumor Diagnosis, Department of Oncology, Hadassah University Hospital, Jerusalem, Israel.
Dominique Patton. “Sambucol fights bird flu virus in lab” 26 January 2006. Decision News Media SAS.
“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 1995, 1 (4):361-369