The Spartan Guide to Elderberry
The Claim The berries of this plant make medicinal syrups and tablets that are used to amp up immunity, and especially to prevent and fight the flu. They’re also used to make elderberry wine, but that’s probably not the best flu-fighter.
The Evidence Compounds in elderberry seem to help destroy viruses and reduce inflammation. In one study, elderberry syrup cut down the length and severity of the flu when taken within 48 hours of onset of symptoms. Other research shows that elderberry lozenges help reduce flu symptoms within two to four days.
“Elderberry is mostly used for immune support,” says Darcy McConnell, M.D., a functional medicine physician at the Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, New York. “I recommend it for prophylaxis against upper respiratory infections, like the common cold and flus. If you’ve been exposed or feel like you’re coming down with something, taking elderberry extract for a few days will lessen the likelihood of becoming ill.”
How to Use It Many trials suggest taking 15 milliliters of syrup up to four times a day to treat the flu. But follow package directions to help prevent illnesses. “Elderberry stimulates the immune system, so theoretically, it could exacerbate some autoimmune diseases,” Dr. McConnell says. “If you have autoimmune disease, ask your doctor before taking any immune stimulating supplements.
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