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Elderberry & Infection: Could it Help with COVID-19?

Written by Carlos Tello, PhD (Molecular Biology) | Last updated:
Puya Yazdi
Medically reviewed by
Puya Yazdi, MD | Written by Carlos Tello, PhD (Molecular Biology) | Last updated:

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This article is for informational purposes only. The current coronavirus outbreak is an ongoing event and certain details may change as new information comes to light. No effective or FDA-approved products are currently available for the treatment of the new coronavirus (also known as SARS-CoV-2 or 2019-nCoV), although research is still ongoing.

Elderberries are glossy, tart, deep-purple fruits of the Sambucus tree. Among many varieties, the most common one is the European elder or black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) [1].

Elderberry is a common supplement taken to reduce the symptoms and severity of the flu, but could it be useful in COVID-19? Let’s discuss the evidence.

Flu

Sambucol is a popular, widely-available brand of standardized elderberry extracts. In clinical studies with over 80 people with influenza A or B, taking Sambucol syrup for 5 days relieved flu symptoms 4 days faster than the placebo [2, 3, 4].

Elderberry lozenges (4x/day) reduced fever, headache, muscle pain, and nasal congestion within 48 hours in a clinical study on 64 people with the flu [5].

In test tubes, elderberry flavonoids could bind to influenza viruses A and B and prevent them from entering cells and multiplying [6, 7].

Elderberry is a popular supplement taken to reduce the symptoms and duration of the flu.

Other Respiratory Infections

In one clinical study of 312 people traveling overseas from Australia, elderberry extract reduced the severity and duration of common cold symptoms compared to the placebo [8].

In clinical studies on over 2,300 people with a bacterial sinus infection, a combination of elderberry and other herbs (gentian root, cowslip flowers, sorrel, vervain wort) reduced inflammation, headaches, and nasal discharge [9, 10, 11, 12, 13].

Additionally, elderberry extract was active against the human coronavirus NL63 in test tubes. This virus mainly causes lower respiratory diseases in children and is one of the three known coronaviruses that invade cells via the same receptor as SARS-CoV-2 (ACE2) [14].

In multiple clinical trials, elderberry helped reduce the symptoms of the common cold and sinus infections. It also has direct antiviral activity against some coronaviruses.

About the Author

Carlos Tello

Carlos Tello

PhD (Molecular Biology)
Carlos received his PhD and MS from the Universidad de Sevilla.
Carlos spent 9 years in the laboratory investigating mineral transport in plants. He then started working as a freelancer, mainly in science writing, editing, and consulting. Carlos is passionate about learning the mechanisms behind biological processes and communicating science to both academic and non-academic audiences. He strongly believes that scientific literacy is crucial to maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoid falling for scams.

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