Does elderberry fruit extract block the influenza virus? It may!

According to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, (an subscription-based, independent, evidence-based, and highly trustworthy website that I highly recommend), “extracts of elderberry seem to block replication of some strains of influenza virus. New research shows that it might also block H1N1 ‘swine’ flu in a test tube.” Could it be true?

ViraBLOC is a new lozenge advertised for upper respiratory infections such as the cold and flu. It contains a specific elderberry fruit extract.

Clinical research is preliminary, but promising.

In one pilot study, ViraBLOC significantly reduced self-reported flu symptoms compared to placebo. It contained in a lozenge formulation with 175 mg of elderberry extract. The lozenge is taken 4 times a day for 2 days, starting within 24 hours of initial symptoms. ViraBLOC has been safely used for up to two days.

Two preliminary clinical trials also show that a different elderberry product, Sambucol (Nature’s Way), significantly reduces symptoms and the duration of the flu. This standardized elderberry fruit extract is contained in a syrup formulation. It is taken 15 mL (1 tablespoon) 4 times a day, and is reported to shorten the duration of symptoms by about 56 percent, on average. It reduces the severity of symptoms such as fever and muscle aches. Significant symptom relief seems to occur within 2 to 4 days of treatment for most patients.

The safety of other extracts of elderberry is unknown. As for PREGNANCY AND LACTATION, the database says, there is “Insufficient reliable information available; avoid using.”

The Natural Database says, “Elderberry has both antiviral and immunomodulating effects. Elderberry seems to increase production of inflammatory cytokines, such as interleukins and tumor necrosis factor. It also seems to prevent viral attachment to cells, similar to the neuraminidase inhibitors. Elderberry is active against both influenza A and B. New research shows that an elderberry fruit extract also has in vitro activity against H1N1 ‘swine’ flu.”

While the evidence for elderberry is promising, there’s better evidence for antiviral drugs for treating the flu.

However, if you have a mild case of influenza and cannot afford a prescription antiviral medication such as Tamiflu or Relenza, one of these two elderberry products may be worth a try.

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