A natural cure for influenza: Study proves elderberries are an effective antiviral
Elderberry — also known as Sambucus nigra — is a small, antioxidant-rich fruit commonly found in Europe and North America. This fruit has been used in folk medicine to treat many ailments. In a study published in the Journal of Functional Foods, researchers reported that the elderberry fruit can help fight the influenza virus.
Conducted by researchers from the University of Sydney, the study showed that elderberry contains compounds that have a mild inhibitory effect on the influenza virus in the early stages of infection. The compounds also have a considerably stronger inhibitory effect post-infection.
“It inhibits the early stages of an infection by blocking key viral proteins responsible for both the viral attachment and entry into the host cells,” said Dr. Golnoosh Torabian, one of the authors of the study.
A “berry” good alternative
Elderberries are known to have flu-fighting properties. A previous study published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine reported that elderberry liquid extract is effective against the influenza virus.
In the study, researchers investigated the antibacterial and antiviral activities of elderberry extract against several pathogens that cause upper respiratory tract infections. They found that the elderberry liquid extract is effective against some Streptococcus species and can stop influenza viruses from propagating.
For their study, Torabian explained that he and his team focused more on examining the mechanism by which phytochemicals — beneficial compounds produced by plants — can be used to combat influenza infections.
commercially farmed elderberries into a juice serum which was then used to treat cells before, during, and after being infected by the influenza virus. The researchers found that the phytochemicals in the juice serum could effectively stop the influenza virus from infecting the cells. Additionally, the serum inhibited viral propagation at the later stages of the infection, much to the surprise of the researchers.
“This observation was quite surprising and rather significant because blocking the viral cycle at several stages has a higher chance of inhibiting the viral infection,” said Peter Valtchev, co-author of the study.
The elderberry juice serum can also stimulate cells to release cytokines — chemical messengers used by immune cells to coordinate a more efficient response to threats and invading pathogen. The researchers attributed elderberry’s powerful antiviral activity to anthocyanidins, which are the compounds responsible for the fruit’s purple color.
“These data support the use of Sambucus nigra berries as nutraceutical ingredients for the management of the influenza infection,” said the researchers.
Other benefits of elderberry
Elderberry has other benefits besides being an antiviral agent. The fruit has been reported to aid digestion, support heart health, and even fight cancer.
Aids in digestion – Elderberry is rich in dietary fiber, which helps improve digestion. According to studies, elderberry also contains a chemical compound that acts as a natural laxative. This allows elderberry to relieve constipation and improve gastrointestinal health.
Supports heart health – The high fiber content of elderberry helps improve heart health by reducing the amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) in the blood. LDL, also known as “bad” cholesterol, can clog the arteries. In addition, elderberry is high in potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure.
Fights cancer – Researchers from the University of Illinoiscompared the anti-cancer activities of European elderberry and its American counterpart. They found that the two varieties contain compounds that can prevent cancer growth and progression.