What about COVID-19 and elderberry?

Long-time readers know that my “go-to” sources for natural medicines (herbs, vitamins, and supplements) are ConsumerLab.com and Natural Medicines(TM). ConsumerLab has posted about coronavirus and elderberry:

Elderberry extract has been shown in laboratory studies to inhibit the replication and hemagglutination of human flu viruses, including certain strains of Influenza A and B, and H1N1.

Small, preliminary trials in people with the flu suggest that taken within the first day or so of experiencing symptoms, elderberry shortens the duration of the flu, but more studies are needed to corroborate this.

There is no evidence that elderberry extract can prevent COVID-19 or reduce symptoms in people who have been infected. 

Furthermore, concern has been raised on some websites about the potential for elderberry extract to cause a cytokine storm in reaction to a COVID-19 infection.

A cytokine storm is an “overreaction” to infection in the body, in which the immune system overproduces the cytokines and immune system cells that help to fight infection.

This overreaction is very damaging, particularly to the lungs, and is suspected to play a role in some cases of severe COVID-19 (Mehta, Lancet 2020). 

The concern with elderberry is based on a small study using blood from 12 healthy individuals that showed a particular elderberry extract increased levels of inflammatory cytokines in a dose-dependent manner (i.e. a higher dose of the extract resulted in higher levels of cytokines).

However, another study found an elderberry tincture decreased levels of inflammatory cytokines.

There do not appear to be studies on the effects of elderberry extract on cytokine levels in people with severe respiratory infections, and there are no published reports of elderberry extract being associated with or suspected of causing or worsening, a cytokine storm in people. 

ConsumerLab’s tests of elderberry extracts and supplements found that the amounts of elderberry compounds in marketed products ranged more than 2,000-fold — from as little as 0.03 mg to 69.3 mg per suggested serving., although due to lack of research, it’s not clear what amount, if any, would be effective. 

For people who do choose to try elderberry extract, it’s helpful to know that it appears to be generally well-tolerated. However, people who are allergic to grass pollen may have allergic reactions to elderberry.

Never consume raw elderberries, as these contain toxic compounds that can cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and diarrhea. 

Based on its tests and review, ConsumerLab has published its Top Pick in its Elderberry Supplements Review, which contains additional information about using elderberry, its benefits, dosing, and potential side effects. 

Of course, the most important thing you can do to avoid infection with coronavirus is to prevent exposure by following the latest recommendations of the CDC and World Health Organization and take steps to stay healthy, including getting adequate sleep, keeping up with your daily exercise, and eating a healthy nutritious diet. 

© Copyright WLL, INC. 2020. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.

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