For centuries, elderberries have been used in traditional medicine to treat flu, colds and sinusitis and have been shown to have antiviral activity against influenza, respiratory syncytial viruses and herpes simplex.
Elderberry extract has high levels of flavonoids, especially anthocyanidins, which are associated with these antiviral properties. In particular, it has been observed that bioflavonides stimulate the immune system by increasing the production of cytokines by monocytes. In addition, they inhibit the hemoagglutination of the influenza virus, which translates into a lower adhesion of the virus to cellular receptors that decreases its subsequent infective capacity. On the other hand, the anti-inflammatory capacity of these compounds, especially anthocyanidins, is comparable to that of acetylsalicylic acid and has a pronounced effect on usual flu symptoms such as: pain, discomfort and fever.
A study conducted on 60 patients with typical flu symptoms and ages between 18 and 54 years during the flu season in Norway evaluated the safety and efficacy of an extract of elderberries in these cases. During the double-blind, placebo-controlled study, participants received either 15ml of extract or placebo four times a day for 5 days.
In this study it was observed that, on average, flu symptoms disappeared about 4 days earlier among those who received elderberries compared to those who took placebo. In addition, the use of the extract significantly decreased the use of influenza medication. There were no adverse reactions of any kind with elderberry extract.
Therefore, it was concluded that the treatment of elderberry flu is efficient and safe, decreases the use of flu medication and does not generate the usual sedation symptoms of the flu.
Reference: Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. Zakay-Rones Z, Thom E, Wollan T, Wadstein J. Department of Virology, Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem, Israel. J Int Med Res. 2004 Mar-Apr; 32 (2): 132-40