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Article updated on 10 February 2020.
I have a chronic medical condition that means that I don’t always get sufficient sleep. This compromises my immune system to some degree so that I am prone to bad colds and coughs that can last up to six weeks. Over a year ago, I had a particular bad bout and thought I was also developing pneumonia but fortunately that wasn’t the case. However a year ago a family member came across a well researched article that indicated that black elderberry capsules can prevent the spread of viruses in the body and thus reduce the incidence of colds and coughs. The article also stated that black elderberry is effective in reducing the severity of flu resulting in the person recovering much more quickly than usual.
For the last year or so, in spite of not always sleeping sufficiently long, I have been taking four black elderberry capsules a day, two after breakfast and two after my evening meal, and have not had one cold or cough during that time. I am impressed and it has made an enormous difference to my life. One word of warning regarding dosage. It is important not to exceed four capsules a day as if you do you are likely to get bad diarrhoea!
I am aware that the effects of long-term use of black elderberry are unknown. It is an area that needs further research and the common sense recommendation is just to take it for a few days it when you feel you are at risk from developing flu or a cold/cough. However, because of my underlying medical condition not always sleeping sufficiently long is a chronic problem for me – I do everything I can to minimise this – and taking the black elderberry capsules long-term enormously improves my quality of life especially as my current project work involves running groups and workshops and giving talks. So for me, though I know I’m making this choice in the dark, it is well worth any possible risk. To date, I have had no problems using black elderberry long-term, just benefit.
The Novel Coronavirus is in a family of viruses that that includes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). At present, there is no approved vaccine to prevent this infection. The symptoms from this virus include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Further developments, particularly in those who already have a weakened immune system, can be pneumonia, acute respiratory problems, kidney failure and death.
In view of this it would seem sensible to explore a possible role of black elderberry in reducing the severity of flu symptoms or preventing symptoms developing even when people are exposed to the virus. The virus is spread by respiratory droplets from breathing, coughing and sneezing. The virus can survive for up to nine days on surfaces. The present recommended protection is to wash your hands and avoid touching your face, eyes and mouth.
Two recent research articles cited below show that black elderberry directly inhibits the flu virus’s entrance into cells and also inhibits its replication in the body; that is prevents it spreading in the body. It can also strengthen a person’s immune response to the virus and inhibits the early stages of infection by blocking key viral proteins responsible for viral attachment and entry into body cells. They conclude that black elderberry has a potent direct antiviral effect against the flu virus. This results in a person with flu who takes the elderberry recovering on average four days sooner than someone who doesn’t take the capsules. Perhaps further research needs to be carried out to see if black elderberry can actually prevent flu symptoms when someone is exposed to the virus. This would seem quite likely as, mentioned before, it does inhibit the early stages of infection and prevents the virus spreading in the body.
I am one of those more at risk of a more severe outcomes from a coronavirus infection. I shall certainly continue taking black elderberry capsules and hope they continue to be so effective for me. They actually make me feel invincible, but of course, I might be completely wrong!
Of course, each one of us has to make our own decision about such matters and when an area hasn’t been extensively researched, we have to weigh up the risks for ourselves, including understanding, at present, we have no certain protection from the coronavirus.
Jane Graham Reed is a retired science and health education teacher. She is now training as a CBT therapist and does project work around mindfulness, well-being, meditation and mental health.
Professor Fariba Deghana et al, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190423133644.htm
Golnoosh Torabian, Peter Valtchev, Qayyum Adil, Fariba Dehghani. ‘Anti-influenza activity of elderberry (Sambucus nigra)’. Journal of Functional Foods, 2019; 54: 353 DOI: 10.1016/j.jff.2019.01.031