The healing power of elderberries

I was recently sent a sample of Sambucol, a well known Elderberry supplement which is supposed to prevent coughs and colds and which I have used successfully in the past to prevent myself and my children getting a cold.

Before posting here though, I wanted to check it out and see whether there was good evidence to support its use. Elderberry has been used for centuries to treat wounds when applied to the skin. It is also taken orally to treat respiratory illnesses such as colds and flu.

The thinking is that the chemicals in elderberries may help to reduce swelling in mucous membranes and relieve nasal congestion. Some people believe that elderberry may have anti inflammatory, antiviral, and anti influenza properties.

Elderberries contain 87 per cent of the daily value in vitamin C as well as large amounts of vitamin A, potassium, iron, vitamin B6, fibre and betacarotene. Elderberries also have diuretic and detoxifying properties.

So what is the evidence for the efficacy of elderberries? A 2012 study in the USA and published in the journal Phytochemistry showed that in lab tests elderberry extract does indeed inhibit Human Influenza A (HINI) infection.

Mass Spectrometry coupled with Direct Binding Assay was used to identify the anti-viral components of Sambucus Nigra or Black Elderberry as it is commonly known. The study showed that the H1N1 inhibition of elderberry flavonoids compared favourably to the known anti influenza activities of both Tamiflu and Amantadine.

Sambucol used to be available as a throat spray which I used to use regularly if I felt a cold coming on. Or even when I knew I was going to be in a crowded place where someone was likely to be infected. It worked fantastically well for me and while I was using it I barely got a cold during the winter season.

Sadly the company who make Sambucocl have discontinued the throat spray so I am going to have to get used to taking a spoonful a day. I will keep you posted as to how I get on throughout the coming winter months!

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