Elderberry may be a newer cold medicine ingredient, but it has been used as a folk medicine for many years around the world.
Not much clinical research has been done to prove elderberry is effective in fighting off colds.
When it comes to easing colds, the jury is still out.
Colds can make you feel miserable, so you'll try anything that will help you feel better fast. In your quest to find the most effective throat lozenge or cough syrup at the local pharmacy, you may have come across products using elderberry as a key active ingredient.
While elderberry may seem like the latest fad in treating colds, it's been used for centuries in different parts of the world to heal a variety of ailments. So, is elderberry, if not the cure for the common cold, at least a powerful weapon in fighting them off?
More about elderberries
The elderberry is a plant that has edible flowers and berries. Elderberries are rich in vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants. Because they can be cooked, they can be consumed in a variety of ways. This adaptability — and the antioxidant properties — has made the elderberry a popular medicinal agent in several cultures, where it has been used as a folk medicine to treat everything from headaches to infections.
Elderberry and colds
But when it comes to easing colds, the jury is still out. As with most fruits, their nutritional potency is at their highest in their natural, whole form. That means when elderberries are processed into syrups, lozenges, teas or other cold-busting products, they lose some of their natural antioxidant power. (Caution: Elderberries can cause sickness if they are eaten raw.)
Some limited studies have suggested that elderberry extract may help reduce the length of influenza symptoms. There are, however, some important points to note. First, the studies have mainly looked at elderberry's influence on the flu, not colds. Also, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has historically warned manufacturers of elderberry products against advertising with claims that they can prevent flu. Finally, there simply hasn't been enough clinical research done on the efficacy of elderberry to determine how well it can fight colds.
If you choose to use elderberry-based cold products to try and reduce cold symptoms, it is important to follow dosing instructions, especially if giving them to children, just as you would with any cold medicine. When it comes to preventing colds, one of the best bets is still practicing proper hygiene, including washing hands thoroughly.
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