• Screw the Flu, Get thee some Elderberry!

    Screw the Flu- Research Mama


    Ah, Yes! Another Back-To-School season favorite! The flu!

    If you have never heard about Elderberries..  you need.to.know. Make no mistake about it. Whether you want to help keep your immune system boosted and ready for anything, if you’ve caught a cold or, gasp!, the flu, here’s what you need to know:

    Web MD even recognizes the goodness of Elderberries:

    “Why do people take elderberry?

    Elderberries contain natural substances called flavonoids. They seem to help reduce swelling, fight inflammation, and boost the immune system.

    Studies have found that elderberry eases  flu symptoms like fever,  headache,  sore throat, fatigue,  cough, and body aches. The benefits seem to be greatest when started within 24 to 48 hours after the symptoms begin. One study found that elderberry could cut the duration of  flu symptoms by more than 50%.

    Lab studies have found that elderberry might be effective against H1N1, or  swine flu.

    A few studies have suggested that elderberry could help with bacterial sinus infections or bronchitis. More research needs to be done.

    People use elderberry for  high cholesterol,  HIV, and many other conditions. For now, we don’t have good evidence to support these uses.” [Emphasis added.]


    The super funny, and incredibly obnoxious, thing is that as soon as you click on any of those other links on the WebMD site, like “flu symptoms,” this is the dialogue for treatment:

    “Flu Symptoms:

    If you’re very sick or you have other medical conditions, you might need treatment with prescription medications called antiviral drugs.

    These medicines — oseltamivir (Tamiflu), peramivir (Rapivab), or zanamivir (Relenza) — work best when you take them within 48 hours after your symptoms start. They can shorten the length of your illness by a day if you take them within this early window. They might help even after 2 days, if you have a bad case.

    Your doctor may want you to take antiviral drugs if you have a high risk of complications from the flu.”


    UGH, this is the kind of stuff that really gets me irritated. NO, I repeat NO mention of Elderberry. Think about that and ask yourself why if you haven’t already.

    The first post had it right. Although I think the use of the word “seem” is irritating as well considering the vast number of studies that there are that make pretty clear indication that elderberries are really amazing. Seriously, go get yourself some and please carefully consider skipping the Tamiflu. (But I’m not a doctor, and thank God for that!)

    Still Skeptical? Here’s the Back-Up:

    “Elderberry has been used in folk medicine for centuries to treat influenza, colds and sinusitis, and has been reported to have antiviral activity against influenza and herpes simplex. We investigated the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry syrup for treating influenza A and B infections. Sixty patients (aged 18-54 years) suffering from influenza-like symptoms for 48 h or less were enrolled in this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study during the influenza season of 1999-2000 in Norway. Patients received 15 ml of elderberry or placebo syrup four times a day for 5 days, and recorded their symptoms using a visual analogue scale. Symptoms were relieved on average 4 days earlier and use of rescue medication was significantly less in those receiving elderberry extract compared with placebo. Elderberry extract seems to offer an efficient, safe and cost-effective treatment for influenza. These findings need to be confirmed in a larger study.” [Emphasis added.]

    Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15080016]

    “Elderberry (Sambucus nigra L.) has traditionally been used for treating influenza and colds. We evaluated the antiviral effect of concentrated juice of elderberry (CJ-E) on the human influenza A virus (IFV). CJ-E had a relatively strong effect on IFV-infected mice, although its anti-IFV activity was weak in a cell culture system. The in vivo anti-IFV activities of the fractions were determined after separating CJ-E by ultrafiltration and anion-exchange chromatography. Oral administration of the high-molecular-weight fractions of CJ-E to IFV-infected mice suppressed viral replication in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluids (BALFs), and increased the level of the IFV-specific neutralizing antibody in the serum, as well as the level of secretory IgA in BALFs and feces. Fr. II from high-molecular-weight fraction HM, which contained acidic polysaccharides, showed relatively strong defense against IFV infection. We conclude that CJ-E had a beneficial effect by the stimulating immune response and preventing viral infection.”

    Anti-influenza virus effects of elderberry juice and its fractions [http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1271/bbb.120112]

    Long story short..   Yes, totally effective against the flu.

    And BONUS!!!   It Is Immune-Boosting!

    The present study aimed to assess the effect of Sambucol products on the healthy immune system – namely, its effect on cytokine production. The production of inflammatory cytokines was tested using blood – derived monocytes from 12 healthy human donors… We conclude from this study that, in addition to its antiviral properties, Sambucol Elderberry Extract and its formulations activate the healthy immune system by increasing inflammatory cytokine production. Sambucol might therefore be beneficial to the immune system activation and in the inflammatory process in healthy individuals or in patients with various diseases. Sambucol could also have an immunoprotective or immunostimulatory effect when administered to cancer or AIDS patients, in conjunction with chemotherapeutic or other treatments. In view of the increasing popularity of botanical supplements, such studies and investigations in vitro, in vivo and in clinical trials need to be developed.” [Emphasis added.]

    The effect of Sambucol, a black elderberry-based, natural product, on the production of human cytokines: I. Inflammatory cytokines [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11399518]

    Ok, what about H1N1 or compared to Tamiflu?

    “A ionization technique in mass spectrometry called Direct Analysis in Real Time Mass Spectrometry (DART TOF-MS) coupled with a Direct Binding Assay was used to identify and characterize anti-viral components of an elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra L.) extract without either derivatization or separation by standard chromatographic techniques. The elderberry extract inhibited Human Influenza A (H1N1) infection in vitro with an IC(50) value of 252+/-34 microg/mL. The Direct Binding Assay established that flavonoids from the elderberry extract bind to H1N1 virions and, when bound, block the ability of the viruses to infect host cells. Two compounds were identified, 5,7,3′,4′-tetra-O-methylquercetin (1) and 5,7-dihydroxy-4-oxo-2-(3,4,5-trihydroxyphenyl)chroman-3-yl-3,4,5-trihydroxycyclohexanecarboxylate (2), as H1N1-bound chemical species. Compound 1 and dihydromyricetin (3), the corresponding 3-hydroxyflavonone of 2, were synthesized and shown to inhibit H1N1 infection in vitro by binding to H1N1 virions, blocking host cell entry and/or recognition. Compound 1 gave an IC(50) of 0.13 microg/mL (0.36 microM) for H1N1 infection inhibition, while dihydromyricetin (3) achieved an IC(50) of 2.8 microg/mL (8.7 microM). The H1N1 inhibition activities of the elderberry flavonoids compare favorably to the known anti-influenza activities of Oseltamivir (Tamiflu; 0.32 microM) and Amantadine (27 microM).” [Emphasis added.]

    Elderberry flavonoids bind to and prevent H1N1 infection in vitro [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19682714]

    Pretty great, huh?!

    It seems pretty evident to me that for real, Elderberry is right on par with Tamiflu in terms of being effective against the flu.  So aside from me being all about “natural alternatives,” why am I so eager to suggest you avoid Tamiflu?

    Here’s why:

    “——————– WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS ———————–

    Serious skin/hypersensitivity reactions such as Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, toxic epidermal necrolysis and erythema multiforme: Discontinue TAMIFLU and initiate appropriate treatment if allergic-like reactions occur or are suspected. (5.1)

    Neuropsychiatric events: Patients with influenza, including those receiving TAMIFLU, particularly pediatric patients, may be at an increased risk of confusion or abnormal behavior early in their illness. Monitor for signs of abnormal behavior. (5.2)” [Emphasis added.]


    ^^ Straight from the Prescription Information.  Here’s some more (shall we say interesting?) information on that:

    “(1) Oseltamivir is an antiviral drug used for influenza. It has only been tested in children to a limited extent. (2) A few deaths have been reported in children receiving oseltamivir, in some cases due to neurological causes. All of these deaths occurred in Japan. The European Medicines Agency has described 2 deaths, both attributed to suicide, in adolescents aged 14 and 17 who were taking oseltamivir. Both patients had developed behavioural disorders before their death. (3) According to the US Food and Drug Administration, neuropsychiatric disorders were reported in 32 children (mainly in Japan), and include delirium, behavioural disorders, hallucinations, convulsions and confusion. (4) Disturbing neurological toxicity has been observed in young rats exposed to oseltamivir, leading the American and European agencies to warn against the use of oseltamivir in infants less than one year old. (5) Severe cutaneous adverse effects, including cases of Lyell syndrome, were reported in children taking oseltamivir. (6) In practice, oseltamivir is only modestly effective in the prevention of influenza and treatment of suspected influenza. There is no evidence of an effect on complications of the flu in adults or children at higher risk. The possibility of serious adverse effects should be weighed against the limited benefit of oseltamivir.” [Emphasis added.]

    Oseltamivir: cutaneous and neurological adverse effects in children [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17128526]

    I’m going to share some more information below regarding several of these issues, but I want to interject for a moment and mention that yes, these problems are reported in children. That is definitely the primary concern, however, and if you stick with me over time you’ll see me say this a lot, it would be insane for us to think that just because these adverse events happened primarily in children that they are not also affecting adults. Period.  You do not become immune to the effects of these drugs simply “because” you are either older, or have a larger body weight, etc. etc. I guarantee you they are affecting everyone on some level.

    I half apologize for the amount of information that I have pasted below, but I think it is important to see it all together. And since one of my primary focuses here is to make it easy to follow, without necessarily having to click on a bunch of different links.. here it is:

    “6. Is Tamiflu approved for use in pediatric patients?

    Tamiflu is available in both capsule and liquid formulations. It is approved for treatment of influenza in children over 1 year of age. In the U.S., Tamiflu is dosed according to body weight in younger children. Older children (over 40 kg or 88 lbs) and adolescents receive the same dose as adults. It is also approved for prophylaxis (prevention) of influenza in children over 13 years of age.

    7. What is useful about Tamiflu in pediatric patients? Who should use it?

    When used as directed (twice daily for 5 days) Tamiflu can reduce the duration of influenza symptoms in otherwise healthy children by 1 to 1 ½ days. It also appears to reduce the severity of common flu symptoms. Consequently, it may allow children to return to school or other normal activities sooner. Tamiflu was also shown to be similarly effective in children who had a history of asthma and did not worsen the asthma symptoms.

    Tamiflu is most effective when taken within 48 hours after the beginning of flu symptoms and not likely to be effective if patients have already had flu symptoms for several days. Patients (and their parents) should be aware that some patients with influenza may be at risk for secondary bacterial infections and should seek medical care if they are not improving within a few days of beginning Tamiflu.

    Tamiflu has not been studied in children with very severe or complicated influenza who require hospitalization and it is not known whether it will provide the same benefit to children with severe illness.

    8. What are the important safety issues and adverse events?

    When Tamiflu was studied in clinical trials as treatment for children with influenza, children taking Tamiflu experienced similar side effects as children not taking Tamiflu. Serious side effects were not identified. The most common side effects observed in both the treatment and prophylaxis trials were nausea and vomiting. In these trials, a small number of children stopped taking their Tamiflu because of nausea and vomiting or other adverse reactions.

    In the safety review mandated by the BPCA, a number of adverse event reports were identified associated with the use of Tamiflu in children 16 years of age or younger. These adverse event reports were primarily related to unusual neurologic or psychiatric events such as delirium, hallucinations, confusion, abnormal behavior, convulsions, and encephalitis. These events were reported almost entirely in children from Japan who received Tamiflu according to Japanese treatment guidelines (very similar but not identical to U.S. treatment guidelines). The review identified a total of 12 deaths in pediatric patients since Tamiflu’s approval. All of the pediatric deaths were reported in Japanese children. In many of these cases, a relationship to Tamiflu was difficult to assess because of the use of other medications, presence of other medical conditions, and/or lack of adequate detail in the reports.

    The review also identified severe skin reactions (like allergic reactions) in some pediatric patients. These events were not all reported in Japanese children and have also been reported in adults. Severe skin reactions in all age groups are currently being reviewed in more detail.

    9. Why are many of the adverse events being reported from Japan?

    Initially, it was not clear why the neuropsychiatric adverse events and deaths were reported almost entirely in Japanese children. The FDA receives adverse event reports from all over the world and usually adverse events are roughly the same from different reporting countries. The reports of death and neuropsychiatric events associated with Tamiflu, almost entirely from Japan, was unusual enough to prompt further evaluation.

    The FDA requested additional information from both Hoffman-La Roche, the pharmaceutical company which produces Tamiflu, and the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare. FDA then evaluated several possible explanations for the neuropsychiatric adverse events.

    Was it possible that Japanese patients metabolize Tamiflu differently than American or European patients or have higher levels of the drug in their bodies? There is no scientific evidence that this is true and Japanese dosing recommendations are very similar to U.S. and European recommendations.

    Was it possible that these events were an unusual manifestation of influenza infection? There is good evidence that neuropsychiatric events can occur with influenza, in the absence of Tamiflu or other treatment. Beginning in the mid-1990s, there have been many reports in the pediatric scientific literature describing a syndrome of influenza-associated encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or encephalopathy. These reports originated primarily from Japan where pediatricians described a pattern of rapid onset of fever, accompanied by convulsions and altered level of consciousness, progressing to coma within a few days of the onset of flu symptoms. This syndrome frequently resulted in death or significant neurologic sequelae. These reports prompted nationwide surveillance of influenza-associated encephalopathy in Japan. This syndrome was described and the surveillance in Japan was in progress before Tamiflu was approved for the treatment of influenza.

    Was it possible that the large number of adverse events from Japan was because the Japanese use more Tamiflu? Is it possible that we may see more U.S. cases as use of Tamiflu increases in this country? Partly because of the awareness in Japan of influenza-associated encephalopathy, the Japanese health service will pay for rapid diagnostic testing for influenza in children and subsequent treatment. Japan currently uses the majority of the world’s supply of Tamiflu distributed for seasonal influenza. It is possible that some of these events might be observed in the U.S. population if the use of Tamiflu increases substantially.

    Finally, was it possible that the neuropsychiatric events reported from Japan reflect different methods and requirements for adverse event reporting? Both the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and Roche confirmed that Japanese regulators require an intensive period of active adverse event reporting for 6 months after a product is approved. When Tamiflu was approved for prophylaxis of influenza in Japan, Roche and its Japanese pharmaceutical affiliate actively solicited adverse event reports from 70,000 institutions and physicians in Japan. These adverse event reports included the 2003-04 flu season and were subsequently reported to the FDA and are included in the BPCA safety review.

    It is particularly difficult to assess the relationship of Tamiflu to the reported pediatric deaths. It is known that young children (less than 2 years of age) are hospitalized more often for influenza-associated illness than older children and young adults. Infants and the elderly are known to have higher influenza-associated death rates than other age groups. However, in the U.S., influenza deaths in children were not among the events requiring reporting to public health departments and the CDC until the 2004-05 flu season.

    Review of the available information on the safety of Tamiflu in pediatric patients suggests that the increased reports of neuropsychiatric events in Japanese children are most likely related to an increased awareness of influenza-associated encephalopathy, increased access to Tamiflu in that population, and a coincident period of intensive monitoring adverse events. Based on the information available to us, we can not conclude that there is a causal relationship between Tamiflu and the reported pediatric deaths.” [Emphasis added]

    Tamiflu Pediatric Adverse Events: Questions and Answers [http://www.fda.gov/drugs/drugsafety/postmarketdrugsafetyinformationforpatientsandproviders/ucm107840.htm]

    Take note of #7 – “reduce 1 to 1 1/2 days” “taken within 48 hrs”

    Elderberry study from above: “Sixty patients (aged 18-54 years) suffering from influenza-like symptoms for 48 h or less…Symptoms were relieved on average 4 days earlier and use of rescue medication was significantly less in those receiving elderberry extract compared with placebo.”

    #8 Makes me laugh…  In one breath … “no major side effects in children”  and in another “These adverse event reports were primarily related to unusual neurologic or psychiatric events such as delirium, hallucinations, confusion, abnormal behavior, convulsions, and encephalitis.”

    #8 also mentions SKIN reactions which were listed on the Prescription Information listed above. While most of the talk and concern is about the psychosis of taking Tamiflu, the skin reaction is honestly equally as scary to me.

    Interesting thing about#9 is that it seems evident that the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare have pretty good regulations and follow-up on adverse event reporting. But, at the end of the day…   our FDA still turns around and says that information is inconclusive to the US and it’s totally cool to keep promoting.

    So here’s the conclusion if you didn’t feel like reading all of that:

    Elderberry is JUST AS effective as Tamiflu, if not more. They don’t know what made the Japanese children on Tamiflu go completely insane and die. So which are you going to choose?

    In all fairness, I’ll address the “side effects” of Elderberry. There aren’t any real proven side effects. All they know is what they don’t really know and it’s this:

    “Several years ago, anti−IL-6 was proposed as a useful anti-inflammatory agent in IBD and other autoimmune diseases and some success in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis with this agent has been reported.8687 This form of anticytokine therapy may owe its effectiveness to the fact that antibody binding to IL-6 interferes with the ability of this cytokine to bind to soluble IL-6 and to thus engage in “trans-signaling” via insertion of the IL-6/IL-6 receptor into the cell, which ordinarily delivers an antiapoptotic signal to the cell. Thus, anti−IL-6 prevents apoptosis of effector cells and prolongs inflammation.88″

    Proinflammatory Cytokines in the Pathogenesis of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases [http://www.gastrojournal.org/article/S0016-5085(11)00169-7/fulltext#sec10]

    Simply based on the fact that Elderberry is shown (as addressed above) to increase inflammatory cytokine production, and this study shows that it was (in part) effective to decrease inflammatory cytokine production as treatment for Inflammatory Bowel Disease, that if you have an autoimmune disease, you might consider using Elderberry carefully, as per our old friend WebMD.


    If you’re wondering where you can get some delicious and helpful Elderberry Syrup, here’s a few options for you:

    1) If you want to take matters in to your own hands and make some at home, here’s a super simple (and I like simple!) recipe for you to follow  from The Healthy Home Economist. Looking for Elderberries? Here’s a great organic option from Amazon.

    2) And if you’d just like to pop over to the store, or Amazon, you can check out Gaia Brand here.

    *** And in case you missed it, no, I’m not a doctor, but I like to make educated decisions for my health and hope you do too! The choice is yours!! This post is for informational purposes, period. ***


    ResearchMama Cp)Who is “Research Mama?” I’m a mom who discovered a passion for the blessings of nature. After experiencing the benefit of natural remedies over prescriptions, I became very curious about the claims of the natural community and the verification behind it.

    This is my blog to help share the information that I have found that solidifies the claims that you see time and time again. I hope you will receive the information with an open mind and note that I’m sharing it for the sole purpose of validating that it is there. Anyone reading it can make their personal choice to utilize it or not. That’s it!

    Feel free to let me know if you have any topics for consideration!

One Responseso far.

  1. […] this topic and I encourage you to do a search and see what you come up with.  Check out this other post by Research Mama that goes into great depth on the popular flu medication “Tamiflu” […]

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