We know that berries such as blueberries are nutritional powerhouses. Now, it’s time to add elderberry to the mix – especially when it comes to cold and flu season. It is a folk cure for colds and other viruses like the flu and both the flower and the berry are used. The popular species for medicinal use is Sambucus negra which is the most common species in Europe.
What is it used for?
In general, Elder medicinal preparations are used for general flu symptoms including those that focus on the respiratory system. Elder flowers have been used for fevers, for example, and I generally see preparations made out of the berry for coughs. It is best to use this plant only when you have a cold or the flu and it is generally not used for prevention of either of these.
Clinical Trials for Sambucus
In my opinion, all clinical trials and the results obtained from them need to be taken with a grain of salt. Elder is a common folk remedy and is one of those things that has been handed down from generation to generation. With that said, there have been some encouraging successes that show that this plant is, in fact, effective against a virus.
An Isaeli study (whose results have not been replicated) showed that elder extract, in the form of a standardized preparation called Sambucol, could be effective against flu symptoms. The participants in the group that took the extract did show an improvement to those in the placebo group even though the improvement was barely by 2%.
Should you use it?
I say it is worth a try. You can fine Sambucol or any other elderberry or elderflower preparation in the health food store. In Europe, I’ve even seen elderberry juice for sale in the super markets. You can take the plant in any of these forms. For example, the elderberry syrup is commonly used for respiratory complaints. I would personally choose whichever form you are comfortable with and take that right when your symptoms begin. Of course, you should check with your doctor before doing so just in case.
Final Thoughts about Elder
It is best to purchase your elder flower or elderberry preparations unless you have a Sambucus negra tree near you and you know what you are doing in terms of creating the preparations. Though other species of elder are probably okay, S. negra is the most traditional and time tested choice. Also, remember to check with your physician to make sure that elder is okay for you to take.