Influenza virus (Flu) has been spreading quickly throughout the United States this year. One of our favorite anti-viral herbs that are safe for kids and adults is elderberry (Sambucus nigra or Sambucus canadensis). Elderberries are made into syrup that is a very effective treatment for preventing and treating influenza and other viral infections like the common cold. Several studies have shown elderberry extract to have anti-viral effects while circulating in the body. Elderberry extract prevents the virus from being able to infect more cells in your body. Without the ability to infect more cells and reproduce, the virus cannot survive. Elderberry helps your immune system fight the virus which helps you recover faster.
Elderberry can be used to treat symptoms of the flu or as daily preventative immune support. We often recommend one (1) teaspoon of elderberry syrup every morning for children over age 6 during flu season to protect from potential exposure. For younger children, please check with Dr. Delaplane. Adults require higher doses and may need additional support such as Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and Active Hexose Correlated Compound (AHCC).
If you do not have a plan in place for your child to strengthen their immune system, please schedule a consult with Dr. Delaplane, Starry Brook’s pediatric specialist. She will create a winter health prevention plan tailored to your child’s health needs. Elderberry syrup does not work the same as the flu vaccine; it needs to be taken on a regular basis to prevent viral infections.
The best prevention guidelines for the flu:
- Avoid contact with people who are sick. Symptoms of the flu include: fever, fatigue, chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headaches, possibly diarrhea or vomiting.
- If you experience these symptoms call your doctor to seek treatment immediately. Treatments for influenza are most effective when started within 24-48 hours of onset of symptoms.
- Stay at home from work or school when experiencing flu symptoms and at least 1-2 days after fever is gone without fever-lowering medication.
- Cover your cough! Cough into upper arm, sleeve or tissue. Droplets from your mouth and nose spread infection to others.
- Always wash hands after coughing or sneezing, blowing nose, before eating or preparing food, after arriving home and after using bathroom. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid sugary foods – these can slow down the body’s natural immune response.
Zakay-Rones Z, Varsano N, Zlotnik M, et al. Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama. J Altern Complement Med 1995;1:361-369.
Zakay-Rones Z, Thom E, Wollan T, Wadstein J. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. J Int Med Res 2004;32:132-140.