A small study conducted in 2004 published results that showed 93% of flu patients given elderberry extract were completely symptom-free within two days and those taking a placebo recovered in about six days. Lead researcher Erling Thom, with the University of Oslo in Norway suggests this study demonstrates that elderberry extract works for type A flu.
60 patients who had been suffering with flu symptoms for 48 hours or less; 90% were infected with the A strain of the virus, 10% were infected with type B, took part in the study. Half the group took 15ml of elderberry extract and the other group took a placebo four times a day for five days.
Patients in the extract group had "pronounced improvements" in flu symptoms after three days: nearly 90% of patients had complete cure within two to three days. Also, the extract group had no drowsiness – a downside of many flu treatments. The placebo group didn't recover until at least day six. They also took more painkillers and nasal sprays.
Erling Thom states "It's likely that antioxidants called flavonoids contained in the extract stimulate the immune system...Also, other compounds in elderberry, called anthocyanins, have an anti-inflammatory effect; this could explain the effect on aches, pains, and fever".
Thom adds: Elderberry extract could be an "efficient and safe treatment" for flu symptoms in otherwise healthy people and for those with compromised immune systems, such as the elderly.Researchers from Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School in Israel concur with these findings.
In a clinical trial published in "The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine" in 1995, Barak et al studied the effects of elderberry extract on humans suffering from the flu.Results showed elderberry extract had a substantial effect on the improvement of symptoms, helping patients recover up to four days faster than those who did not take elderberry extract.
When recovering, the flu patients who were treated with elderberry extract also showed higher levels of antibodies in their bloodstream than those flu patients who did not receive elderberry extract treatment. Results were beneficial for infections of both influenza A and influenza B and suggest that taking elderberry may help your immune system and protect you against multiple strains of the flu.
According to a 2001 study led by Vivian Barak from the Department of Oncology at Hadassah University Hospital and published in "European Cytokine Network" elderberry may benefit the immune system.
The study, conducted on patients who collectively were suffering from 10 different strains of the flu virus, found that elderberry increases the production of chemical messengers that signal the brain to initiate an immune system response. Barak believes this capability could also prove useful for treating immuno-suppressive disorders such as AIDS or cancer, in conjunction with other therapies.
Elderberry might therefore be beneficial to the immune system activation and in the inflammatory process in healthy individuals or in patients with various diseases.