Is elderberry a safe choice for treating the flu?

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Knoxville, Tenn. (WVLT) - The list of the supposed benefits of consuming elderberry is endless. Promising reviews found online tout a host of ailments the berries can cure, including the flu. Fans of holistic medicine say taking home brewed elderberry syrups instead of your typical over-the-counter options can boost the immune system, relieve sinus pain, headaches, toothaches and even cure the H1N1 virus. With flu season in full swing, there’s no shortage of buzz online about this new and trendy treatment option.

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Elderberry syrup is the yummiest way to prevent getting sick, or to recover faster from a cold! The rich purple pigment represents its high flavonoid content which stimulates our immune system, helping our bodies fight colds/flus. The raw honey, in this syrup, has antibacterial and antiviral properties to help fight infections and soothe a cough or sore throat! INGREDIENTS 1cup of dehydrated elderberries 3 1/2cups of filtered water 1 thumb of fresh ginger; sliced 1 piece of fresh turmeric; sliced 1tsp of cinnamon 1/2cup of unpasteurized honey INSTRUCTIONS 1. In a pot, combine all ingredients except for the honey 2. Bring contents to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer for 1hour so that 50% of the fluid reduces 3. Let the mixture cool, then strain out the chunks 4. Add the honey to the liquid, mixing until well combined 5. Pour syrup into a glass jar and store in the fridge Take 1tbsp/day to maintain a healthy immune system. Double or triple the dose to reduce the recovery time and symptoms of a cold! *it also tastes great drizzled over pancakes or oatmeal, or added to sparkling water as a spritzer😋

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Cold and flu season is upon us. As any mother of a young child knows - unless you quarantine your kids, you likely won't escape the season without a few fevers, coughs and runny noses. Common sense, lots of hand washing, and a healthy diet are great places to start, but the winter months call for a little boost of something extra to supercharge our immune systems, and hopefully save us from at least a few uncomfortable days and sleepless nights. Thankfully, elderberry is here for us! Elderberry are the dark fruit of a shrub that contain a rich source of antioxidants called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins fight off free radicals, and have anti-inflammatory and anti-virall compounds that are so powerful, they're thought to destroy the ability of cold and flu viruses to infect a cell and replicate. Loaded with antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin A, iron, and potassium, elderberries enhance the bodies immune response and speed up recovery when you do come into contact with a virus. A recent double-blind study found that on average, those who took elderberry when they had they the flu recovered an average of 3 days quicker than those who received a placebo. While you can purchase a prepared elderberry syrup from any health food store, a homemade elderberry syrup is super simple to make! 👉Recipe on the blog.

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Rumors aside, how effective is elderberry at actually curing illness or relieving symptoms? A quick Google search reveals a WebMd article indicating there is enough anecdotal evidence that shows taking the juice syrup by mouth within the first 48 hours of flu symptoms may reduce the severity of symptoms or help the body recover more quickly. The article states that it seems to work in a similar manner to the prescription drug, oseltamivir, more commonly known as Tamiflu. However, the website also states there is no evidence it helps with the H1N1 virus, hay fever, headache, nerve pain, or other conditions.

An article published by the The National Center for Biotechnology Information says the following about using elderberry for the treatment of the flu virus, “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.”

But is elderberry safe to consume? There are some dangers to be aware of. Elderberry as a treatment for flu symptoms should never be considered a suitable replacement for the flu vaccine, according to the Center For Disease Control text. This is especially important when it comes to children and the elderly. The CDC reports being vaccinated could be the difference between life and death.

“Influenza is a potentially serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Every flu season is different, and influenza infection can affect people differently, but millions of people get the flu every year, hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized and thousands or tens of thousands of people die from flu-related causes every year. An annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to help protect against flu. Vaccination has been shown to have many benefits including reducing the risk of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and even the risk of flu-related death in children.”

Additionally, it’s important to get the elderberries from a trusted source. According to a report by the CDC, eight people were hospitalized after consuming juice containing raw elderberry. The report reveals that the homemade juice concoction was made using wild elderberries crushed with their leaves and branches. The CDC recommends that elderberries harvested from the indigenous elder tree of the United States, Sambucus Mexicana, be thoroughly cooked prior to consuming to remove any toxins that may be present. “The root is probably the most poisonous and may be responsible for occasional pig deaths,” says the report. “Cattle and sheep have died after eating leaves and young shoots.” In the case of Elderberry Syrup DIY, it is very important to have a recipe from a trusted source in hand. Signs of elderberry poisoning include nausea and vomiting, weakness, dizziness, numbness and stupor. Anyone experiencing these conditions after consuming elderberry should see a doctor immediately.

Adverse side effects are also a danger to consider before consuming elderberry. According to RXList.com, elderberry may have a mild interaction with at least 28 prescription medications. A doctor can confirm whether it’s safe to mix with any other drug.

According to C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, a black elderberry syrup is safe for kids to take. Children can take one teaspoon twice daily, and adults can have up to 2 tablespoons twice daily. A tea can also be made from dried flowers which is safe to consume up to three times a day.

Anyone interested in using elderberry at home should check local health shops for trustworthy products.