Many people enjoy juice or jam made with sambucus nigra or black elderberry, and you may have heard that this fruit has many properties that can help keep you healthy.
For instance, it has plentiful antioxidants that help your body fight inflammation.
However, its most important benefit for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other chronic lung diseases is its ability to help you fight cold and flu viruses.
Here are 3 ways that elderberry helps you fight cold and flu viruses:
1. Prevents Cell Attachment
A key feature of viruses is that they have specific proteins on their exterior that allow them to attach to your body’s cells. By attaching itself to a body cell, the virus can inject its genetic material into the cell and take it over.
This takeover allows it to use the cell to make more virus copies. Elderberry can help fight cold and flu viruses by blocking the proteins that attach viruses to your cells. This means that the virus can’t take over the cell, which makes it easier for the immune system to get rid of it.
2. Inhibits Virus Reproduction
If the cold or flu virus has already taken over a body cell, black elderberry can still be useful for fighting it. As discussed above, viruses hijack the cell’s reproductive mechanisms, allowing them to make more copies of themselves and spread throughout the body.
However, elderberries have phytochemicals called anthocyanins that can help stop viruses from reproducing. These chemicals are the same ones that give the berry its dark purple coloring.
In fact, 1 study noted that elderberry is even more effective at stopping late-stage influenza virus reproduction than it is at stopping the virus from infecting the cell in the first place.
3. Boosts Immune System Response
Another effect that elderberry can have on the body is increasing the ability of the immune system to respond to cold and flu viruses.
It can have this effect because it encourages the cells to produce more immune system messenger chemicals called cytokines.
The increase in these chemicals helps the immune system fight viruses in 2 ways:
- They provide the immune system with faster notification of the infection, allowing it to attack the virus earlier.
- Also, the greater number of cytokines produced gives the immune system a better idea of where in the body the virus is. This allows the body to focus its disease-fighting resources more effectively.
Check With Your Doctor Before Using Elderberry
Elderberry comes in syrups and tablets that can be taken specifically to help fight a cold or the flu. As with many alternative treatments, you should ask your doctor before using elderberry.
This will help ensure that you aren’t allergic to this fruit and can help decrease the risk of developing adverse side effects.
Also, remember that elderberry treatments aren’t a replacement for your yearly flu shot.
Christine Kingsley, APRN is the Health and Wellness Director at the Lung Institute where she focuses on providing helpful online resources for people looking for information on various lung diseases, breathing exercises, and healthy lifestyle choices. She advocates for holistic care that involves working with your doctor to explore all options including traditional and alternative care while focusing on diet and exercise as proactive measures.