Elderberry (Sambucus), which is part of the honeysuckle family, has long been valued within the integrative medicine community for its potent antiviral properties. In addition, Native Americans and European herbalists have used elderberry for hundreds of years – to releive colds, fight the flu, treat acne, and reduce wrinkles.
This small, blue and purple-black berries are rich in flavonoids, anthocyacins, and vitamins C and A. By raising the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, elderberry is said to enhance immune system function and improve our ability to fight off infection.
Over the years, elderberry has been the subject of over 50 medical studies, many of which illustrate the plant’s ability to fight influenza. In one study, 60 adults with flu-like symptoms were given elderberry syrup four times a day, and their symptoms cleared up on average four days earlier than those who took a placebo syrup.
What’s more encouraging as we navigate our way through health issues is that elderberry may prevent the binding of viruses. In fact, a recent study published in the journal Virus Research demonstrated elderberry’s substantial effect against HCoV-NL63.
Discover the antiviral properties of elderberry
Caffeic acid is found in many plants and seeds, including elderberry, thyme, sage, spearmint, sunflower seeds, and star anise. It’s recognized for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticcarcinogenic properties.
In examining the many antiviral properties of elderberry, the study in Virus Research concluded that caffeic acid was the most active component. Researchers found that the molecule was 10 times more effective at preventing virus binding to the host cell than any of the other elderberry molecules examined.
Preventing the binding of viruses, in turn, limits the potential for infection. While this research is promising, it was done in vitro, not in animals or humans. Still, the results are optimistic!
Debunking the “confusion” about this healing plant and its link to cytokine storm syndrome
For some time, the internet has been buzzing with misinformation about elderberry. The source of the rumor appears to originate from a 2001 study published in the European Cytokine Network Journal; once the rumor spread on social media, misinformation maligned this helpful herb.
Scientists and researchers have had to continually debunk the idea that elderberry creates “cytokine storm syndrome” – a severe overproduction of immune cells that can lead to life threatening lung inflammation.
Here’s the thing: there are good cytokines and bad ones. Elderberry raises the good ones, while certain unwanted viruses raise the bad ones. It’s as simple as that.
This natural plant has been with us for centuries, made into a salve to aid burns, used as a diuretic, and taken to boost the immune system and fight off colds. Nevertheless, while elderberry helps to support the immune system and preserve our health, it’s not a proven therapy or “magic pill” against viruses.
Bottom line: this natural substance should be considered just another tool in the toolbox that may help us stay safer and healthier during these challenging times.