Elderberry has long history of use from Hippocrates, the father of medicine, in 400BC referring to it as his “medicine chest” to wide use prior to antibiotics by pharmacists and physicians. Today it is used as either an alternative or as an adjunct to conventional medicines for the treatment of viruses including those that cause the common cold and influenza. Recent research has shown that it also has effects against the bacteria that cause upper respiratory infections. So this truly is a broad-spectrum antimicrobial medicine essential during the colder months.
The amount of advertising currently encouraging the flu vaccine is warning us we are approaching the flu season but this vaccine has limitations. On average over the past 10 years the flu vaccine is reported to have protected 40-50% of people from infection with the flu viruses, however this is substantially less protection than from other vaccines that can be up to 90% effective against their targeted disease. I know from my previous career as a microbiologist that the flu virus can mutate rapidly and the flu vaccine is planned and made many months ahead of the flu season. If there’s not a good match with the strains that circulate in that flu season then the vaccine may not be as effective as expected.
For additional or alternative support for the prevention and treatment of flu as well as other respiratory infections elderberry is worth considering because of its very clever mechanism of action…..
For the flu virus to cause an infection, like all viruses, it must invade healthy human cells so it can replicate and spread further. The virus has spikes that it uses to invade the cells but elderberry coats the spikes of the virus preventing it from being able to enter the cells. This ability of elderberry to prevent the viral replication is regardless of the virus subtype so there is no concern about which strain of the flu virus is around in any particular flu season.
Elderberry can prevent infection if taken before being exposed and if taken after infection can keep the virus from proliferating which will reduce the duration of symptoms. It is a major part of my prescription for preventing and treating respiratory infections. It is available in my dispensary in tablet formulations or as a liquid herbal extract to be added to an individually prepared formulation.