A tried-and-true natural treatment for flu and cold symptoms quietly awaits savvy sufferers.
For centuries, the black elderberry plant, Sanbucus nigra, has offered immediate anti-flu benefits to people all over the world. As a folk medicine, it likely dates back to aboriginal times.
The plant’s flavonoid essence, primarily gleaned from its flowers and diminutive berries, is believed to relieve the coughs, congestion, body pains, and nasal torment of colds and assorted viruses.
Because the elderberry is filled with anthocyanin — responsible for the red, purple, and blue colors of many fruits and vegetables – it also most likely offers anti-inflammatory effects, which can ease the aches, pain and fever of colds and flus.
Elderberry is most commonly taken in syrup and extract form, though it also comes in teas, capsules, juices, and even wines and cordials.
Elderberry is often vended under its genus name, Sambucus. That word is derived from an ancient wind instrument and refers to the plant’s pithy stems, which can easily be hollowed and used to make a flute or whistle. It is also prime material for magic wands. In the Harry Potter series, the most powerful wand used is one made of Sambucus, dubbed the “Elder Wand”.
Fighting cold and flu symptoms aren’t the only magical health and wellness benefits ascribed to elderberry. According to herbalists at herbwisdom.com, elderberry can be used to promote “antioxidant activity, to lower cholesterol, improve vision, boost the immune system, improve heart health and for coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections and tonsillitis. “
The University of Maryland’s Medical Center cites a study suggesting that use of a commercial elderberry extract, Sambucol, not only shortened the duration of the flu in patients but found nearly 90% experiencing a “complete cure” within three days.
The Maryland Medical Center suggests the essence of the elderberries might also stave off the worst impacts of an arriving bug. “A lozenge with elderberry extract (ViraBLOC) helped reduce flu symptoms when taken within 24 hours of symptoms starting.”
Scientists at the HerbalScience Group in Naples, Fla., have determined that the elderberry extract inhibits Human Influenza A (H1N1) infection. “Flavonoids from the elderberry extract bind to H1N1 (particles) and, when bound, block the ability of the viruses to infect host cells.”
The group has found elderberry flavonoids compare favorably with the known anti-influenza activities of medicines like Tamiflu.
While elderberry plants can be found throughout the United States, MedMD warns that raw and unripe fruit might cause nausea, vomiting, or severe diarrhea.” At the same time, the site reports, “The cooked elderberry fruit seems to be safe.”