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Elderberry is Essential for Treating Upper Respiratory Illness

Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) has been used medicinally for hundreds of years. One of the reasons that elderberry is so powerful is that it delivers an array of natural immune-supporting compounds, including anthocyanins, quercetin, and rutin, that bolster the body’s ability to fight off invaders.

These compounds also directly interfere with the structure of viruses, which prevents them from entering through cell walls, and from replicating. Elderberry compounds activate the body’s own antiviral police force of phagocytes, as well, which move to protect any cells that are under attack.

This analysis found that supplementation with this well-loved botanical helped to alleviate colds and flu duration and may be especially useful in an era of antibiotic overuse and increasingly difficult-to-treat respiratory conditions.

For the best results, look for an elderberry that provides standardized levels of anthocyanins – at least 12 percent – but also delivers a concentrated source of the plant’s other beneficial compounds. Also, consider combining that elderberry with vitamins A, C, D, and E, plus selenium and zinc for a multi-pronged effect on upper respiratory illnesses to help speed your recovery.


Hawkins J, Baker C, Cherry L, Dunne E. Black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) supplementation effectively treats upper respiratory symptoms: A meta-analysis of randomized, controlled clinical trials. Complement Ther Med. 2019;42:361–365.

Upper respiratory symptoms are often treated with over the counter drugs, antibiotics, and antiviral medications. Due to concerns about safety and efficacy, there is a demand for an alternative solution. Black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) has been used to treat cold and flu symptoms, but there are no large-scale studies or meta-analyses. This meta-analysis quantifies the effects of elderberry supplementation and evaluates moderators including vaccination status and the underlying pathology. This analysis included a total of 180 participants and evaluates moderators such as vaccination status and cause of the upper respiratory symptoms. Supplementation with elderberry was found to substantially reduce upper respiratory symptoms. The quantitative synthesis of the effects yielded a large mean effect size. These findings present an alternative to antibiotic misuse for upper respiratory symptoms due to viral infections, and a potentially safer alternative to prescription drugs for routine cases of the common cold and influenza.

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Terry is happy to provide his opinion on diet and nutrition, supplements and lifestyle choices. This information is for educational purposes only. It is not meant to replace the advice of your physician and is not to be considered medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Should you have any concerns please contact your physician directly.
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