I remember eating bunches of these straight off the tree when I was a boy. Little did I know that elderberry has been used for centuries in folk medicines for influenza, colds and sinusitis. Elderberries are rich in bio-active flavonoids. The main flavanoids being the anthocyanins cyanidin 3-glucoside and cyanidin 3-sambubioside. It has been suggested that these flavonoids stimulate the immune system by enhancing the production of cytokines and monocytes.
Elderberry has also been shown to inhibit the haemagglutination of the influenza virus and thus preventing the adhesion of the virus to cell wall receptors. If the virus can’t stick to the walls of the cells then the virus can’t inject its DNA into the cell or take over the cell to replicate itself.
Anthocyanins commonly found in Elderberry and Tart cherry have been found to have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.
In a small double blind randomised controlled study conducted at the Department of Virology, Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem on 60 subjects with Influenza A virus confirmed by laboratory assays the researchers found that the subjects treated with the standardised Elderberry extract (Sambucol®, Razei Bar, Jerusalem, Israel) had pronounced improvement in influenza symptoms three or four days faster than the placebo group with a mean recovery time of 3.1 days ± 1.3days compared to the mean recovery in the Placebo group of 7.1 days ± 2.5 days. (Zakay-Rones et al, 2004)
I think it is important that we a careful with our claims based on one small piece or research. The writers themselves site the size of this study as a limitation. Another issue that is worth considering is that the study was sponsored by Razei Bar the manufacturers of Sambucol®. However, as a multicentre randomised placebo-controlled study conducted according to the revised Declaration of Helsinki this study provides a very high level of evidence and reliability.
I think it would be great if we could get a larger study done on Elderberry right here in New Zealand considering that this small study showed such promising results.
As for me I can’t afford to be away from work due to illness so I face the winter Cold & Flu season with a seasonal flu jab, a daily dose of vitamin C and the elderberry extract product Viraforte® in the cupboard to start at the first signs of a viral infection.
(Reference, The information provided in this article has been gleaned mostly from the following article: Z ZAKAY-RONES, E THOM, T WOLLAN AND J WADSTEIN; J Int Med Res. 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. )