We're coming up on flu season, and while many of us might opt for getting flu shots, those may not always prevent us from getting sick.
If you do get the flu, there's only one item on the pharmacy shelf that countless people rely on in their time of need - Tamiflu. If you're looking for a more natural alternative, however, you may want to kick it old school with your elders... or rather, with elderberries.
What Is Elderberry Extract?
Elderberry is a plant with small, black, bitter berries. This fruit can be used to make medicinal compounds available as "elderberry extract." Taking this extract is definitely preferable to eating the berries, because they don't taste very good and can have negative effects on digestion.
Elderberry Has Other Non-Medicinal Uses
The fruit of the elderberry is also used in other products. One of the most common uses is winemaking, and it's a favorite of home cellars around the world. Homemade elderberry wine can be much stronger than shop bought wines. It is also used as a food flavoring.
Problems With Tamiflu
Tamiflu is a controversial drug. It is clear that while it has some benefits when taken to combat the flu, the original claims of miraculous properties were clearly overstated. The research data shows that Tamiflu is definitely not a cure for the flu.
Why Elderberry Extract?
We know that there are some wild claims out there regarding natural remedies, but this may be one of the few times where the data favors nature and not the pharmaceutical industry. Research published in PubMed shows that there have been real benefits of using elderberry extract against the flu.
PubMed's Claims On Sambucol
PubMed says, "Sambucus nigra L. products – Sambucol– are based on a standardized black elderberry extract. They are natural remedies with antiviral properties, especially against different strains of influenza virus. Sambucol was shown to be effective in vitro against 10 strains of influenza virus. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study, Sambucol reduced the duration of flu symptoms to 3-4 days."
The Benefits Of Sambucol, In Layman's Terms
The PubMed claims simply show that Sambucol did not act as a cure for the flu, but did reduce the duration that somebody was sick. That's pretty much what Tamiflu claims to do now - but elderberry extract is naturally occurring, while Tamiflu is made in a lab.
More Evidence For Elderberry Benefits
The Journal Of International Medical Research also shows the results of randomized trials and it concurs that Sambucol and elderberry extract does have the ability to reduce the duration of flu. The journal states that it has been used for this very purpose in folk medicine for hundreds of years.
Elderberry Treatments Are Thousands Of Years Old
Hippocrates, the Greek philosopher whose oath is sworn by modern doctors before they begin practicing, recorded the use of elderberry treatments in 400 B.C! He felt the treatment was akin to a "panacea" because of the number of benefits he saw when using it with patients.
The Active Compound Within Elderberry Extract
Of course, this would all be conjecture if it weren't for the fact that the active ingredient in elderberry extract has been isolated by scientists. It's called Antivirin, and while its anti-viral properties are the subject of ongoing research, initial results appear positive.
Avian Flu And Elderberry Extract
Avian flu (commonly known as the "bird flu") has a high level of mortality in people: up to 60% according to the CDC. Yet, in a 1995 study by Zacay-Rones, experiments showed that even against this most powerful form of the flu, elderberry extract was an effective agent for reducing the severity and longevity of symptoms.
The Precise Benefits Of Elderberry Extract
The Journal of International Medical Research cites that Sambucol has been effective in reducing patient reports of fever, aches, and congestion from the two major strains of flu (Influenza A and Influenza B), as compared to a placebo in medical trials.
How To Use Elderberry Extract When You Have The Flu
It's important to note that the only scientific trials on elderberry extract used Sambucol, so you want to use that or something identical. It's easy to take - children need 1/2 a tablespoon four times a day and adults need a whole tablespoon four times a day. If this is too strong for your taste, you can dilute it with cold water.
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