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Could elderberry be key in preventing the flu?

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With COVID-19 cases rapidly increasing and with us being in the middle of cold and flu season, people are looking now more than ever for ways to protect themselves from getting sick. One product that has been popping up more, stating that it can help boost your immune system is elderberry. You might have heard of this product either through your social media or from your friends and family. In this article we will talk about what the current research says about the effects of elderberry on influenza and boosting your immune system.

Elderberry is a dark purple berry that grows from black elder trees. This tree is grown in Europe, North America, Asia, and North Africa, which tend to have the warm climate necessary for growth. Native Americans even used elderberry for medicinal purposes. The Elderberry is high in vitamin C and dietary fiber, as well as a good source of antioxidants with some anti-inflammatory effects.

Elderberry has been commercialized as a dietary supplement that can reduce symptoms and duration of influenza. Most recently, these supplements have also been claiming to help prevent COVID-19. The results behind these claims have been mixed. In a study published in 2004, researchers looked into the effectiveness and safety of using elderberry syrup to treat influenza. They took two groups of individuals and gave one group a syrup with elderberry extract and the other group a syrup without elderberry syrup. Their results showed that the duration of the illness was cut in half with individuals consuming the elderberry syrup. In a study published in 2020, the researchers set up a study that had a similar set up as the 2004 study and the results showed that there was no difference between the two groups with regards to duration of influenza.

Whether elderberry is helpful in preventing or treating influenza is still yet to be determined, but it would be best not to bank all of your hopes on this supplement. One viable way to help prevent getting the flu is by getting the flu shot. If you are feeling ill, contact your doctor to get medical advice on how you should move forward.

 

Jamie Quirk, a dietetic intern for the Purdue Extension Montgomery County Extension Office, contributed this column. Reach her at 400 Parke Ave., Crawfordsville, 765-364-6363 email monicanagele@purdue.edu.

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