Is elderberry protective during cold and flu season? 

by Dr. Mary Clifton

Many doctors are recommending elderberry to help reduce the production of cytokines.  Cytokines are inflammatory mediators that promote congestion, fever, body aches, and overall level of sickness during a time of acute infection. 

In one study of 180 participants published in February 2019 , adding an elderberry supplement was found to substantially reduce cold and flu symptoms after viral infection.   Based on this, researchers suggested that elderberry could provide a potentially safer alternative to prescription drugs for routine cases of cold and flu. 

Another study published in Advanced Integrative Medicine in 2020 found that then elderberry was taken within the 2 days of symptoms of upper respiratory infection or flu, there was a reduction in the duration and severity of the symptoms.  I’d like to caveat this with the fact that there is currently no evidence to support the use of elderberry for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19.  However, as a natural remedy, elderberry has been shown in the laboratory to have antiviral properties and in an influenza study published in 200, it reduced the duration of flu symptoms by 3-4 days.  Additionally, people who consumed elderberry were found to have higher antibody levels to the influenza virus. 

With all this in mind, as a physician I always work to trust the science and the research thus far points to benefits, with no side-effects, of supplementing your flu + cold care with this medicinal berry. While it is not a cure for the common cold, it can definitely help support and speed up the process to getting you back to 100%.