If you've been watching the news, you know that cold and flu season is in full swing across the United States. As a result, many people are scrambling to get the flu shot. I'm not a big fan of the flu shot, or any vaccine, for that matter, due to the potential side effects. Instead of getting a flu shot, I prepare by making sure I have Elderberry Syrup, otherwise known as Sambucus, on hand. In clinical research, it was shown to reduce flu-like symptoms. A particular study, using Nature's Way Sambucus, showed that taking 1 tablespoon 4 times daily seems to reduce the symptoms and duration of influenza infection when given within 48 hours of initial onset of symptoms. Significant symptom relief seems to occur within 2 to 4 days of treatment for most patients. On average, the study showed elderberry extract seems to reduce the duration of symptoms by about 56%.
How It Works
Elderberries contain several flavonoids. The primary flavonoids are the anthocyanidins cyanidin 3-glucoside and cyanidin-3-sambubioside. These anthocyanidins are thought to have immunomodulating effects and possibly anti-inflammatory effects. Elderberry extract has both antiviral and immunomodulating effects. Elderberry extract also inhibits hemagglutinin activity and replication of several strains of influenza viruses A and B. In vitro, elderberry fruit extract also inhibits H1N1 "swine" flu. Elderberry flavonoids are thought to bind to H1N1 virions and prevent the virus from entering host cells.
Orally, elderberry fruit extracts seem to be well-tolerated when used for up to 5 days. Of course, you should always check with your doctor before taking any supplement. This is extremely important if you are pregnant or nursing.
In addition to using Elderberry Syrup to treat flu symptoms, I make sure I have the ingredients on hand, so there's a pot of chicken soup simmering on the stove. According to Irwin Ziment, M.D., pulmonary specialist and professor at the UCLA School for Medicine, chicken soup contains drug-like agents similar to those in modern cold medicines. For example, an amino acid released from chicken during cooking chemically resembles the drug acetylcysteine, prescribed for bronchitis and other respiratory problems.
Spices that are often added to chicken soup, such as garlic and pepper (all ancient treatments for respiratory diseases), work the same way as modern cough medicines, thinning mucus and making breathing easier.
Another theory, put forth by Stephen Rennard, M.D., chief of pulmonary medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, is that chicken soup acts as an anti-inflammatory. The soup, he says, keeps a check on inflammatory white blood cells (neutrophils). Cold symptoms, such as coughs and congestion, are often caused by inflammation produced when neutrophils migrate to the bronchial tubes and accumulate there.
Here is my basic chicken soup recipe:
- 4 organic chicken breasts
- 1 small bag organic baby carrots
- 4 stalks organic celery
- 1 large organic red onion, peeled
- 1 large carton organic chicken broth
- 6 cups water
- 1 tsp. sage
- 2 crushed garlic cloves
- sea salt to taste
- 1 1/2 cups organic brown rice or 1/2 pkg. of gluten-free rice pasta
- Chop chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces.
- In a large pot, add chicken, water, broth, and seasonings.
- Wash and slice carrots; chop celery and onion. Add all vegetables to pot; cover and cook on high for 1 hour or so.
- Add rice, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for an additional 30 minutes.
- If using pasta instead of rice, add pasta, bring to a boil, then continue cooking for another ten minutes.
Zakay-Rones Z, Varsano N, Zlotnik M, et al. Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama. J Altern Complement Med 1995;1:361-9.