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Elderberry Syrup and the Flu: Fact or Hype?

By Paul Rothbart

The use of natural herbs and plants for medicinal purposes goes back to ancient times. Many of these treatments are effective. Although the ancients didn't know how they worked, they were aware that they did. One plant product that is still commonly used is elderberry syrup. The elder tree has the honor of being called, "my medicine chest" by none other than Hippocrates. Elderberries contain many vitamins and antioxidants and are known to boost the immune system. One of their common uses is as a flu preventative and treatment. But is that verified by science or just hype? Let's look at the facts.

Uses of Elderberry Syrup

In addition to treating the flu, elderberry syrup is often used to treat the common cold. Certainly, the antioxidant content would help the body to fight microbes. It is also used to reduce inflammation that can relieve pain. This may also lower stress and promote heart health. Elderberries have also been used to treat kidney issues, fevers, and headaches. There is little scientific evidence that it does these things. But research concerning cold and flu treatment does exist.

Research on Elderberries and the Flu

There have been several studies conducted with elderberries and cold and flu patients. Research involving 180 participants conducted in 2019 has provided the most compelling evidence. The study also took into account whether or not the participants had gotten a flu vaccine. The results showed that elderberry syrup significantly reduced the symptoms of both cold and flu. It was more effective on the flu patients and shortened the duration of illness. The effect was identical in vaccinated and unvaccinated participants.

Side Effects of Elderberries

Elderberry syrup must be dosed just like any other medication. There are chemicals called cyanogenic glycosides in elderberries. Once in the gastrointestinal tract, these substances form hydrogen cyanide. This can cause stomach pain and gastrointestinal problems. These chemicals can be removed when making syrup. It is a process generally beyond the layperson, so rather than make your own elderberry syrup, it is better to buy a reputable brand. Do your research and never use more than the recommended dosage.

For centuries, elderberries have been used to treat a variety of illnesses. Research has demonstrated that they can be effective against the cold and especially the flu. It's not a bad idea to keep elderberry syrup in your medicine cabinet. Be sure of the quality of the brand and don't overuse it.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Tempe, Ariz.

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