Experts predict a nasty cold and flu season. The flu came early this year, with millions of people across the U.S. already reporting the illness and nearly 3,000 deaths from influenza have occurred since the beginning of October, according to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
With the start of the holiday season, and large family gatherings, cases are expected to keep rising. It’s time to take precautions such as getting a flu shot and being diligent about hand washing and other hygienic measures. Eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep, take vitamins and consider including an elderberry extract supplement to help protect against colds and flu.
According to CNET, elderberry comes from elder trees and the extract of the berry is often added to supplements to boost immunity. Elderberries have been used for centuries for their medicinal qualities. In fact, Hippocrates, known as the “Father of Medicine,” way back in 400 B.C. called the elder tree his “medicine chest.”
The most common dosage of elderberry extract as a supplement is 1,200 milligrams by mouth every day. Experts do not recommend taking it longer than 12 weeks. Important: Experts advise cooking or processing raw elderberries before eating to prevent potential toxicity.
Here are some science-backed health benefits that make elderberry a great choice to protect yourself this cold and flu season:
• Packed with vitamin C. Just one cup of berries has more than half the daily recommended value of vitamin C. One cup also has 10 grams of fiber, 36% of the recommended daily value.
• High in antioxidants. Research has shown that elderberry flowers, leaves and berries all contain antioxidants. In one study, elderberries were found to have the highest levels of antioxidants when compared to other berries.
• Fights colds and flu. Scientists have found that elderberry extract may reduce the severity of flu symptoms. Its antiviral and antimicrobial properties make it a powerful natural remedy for colds and flu.
A study published in 2019 in the Journal of Functional Foods highlighted the benefits of elderberry extract in fighting the flu. Researchers applied a serum made from elderberries directly onto cells before, during, and even after they had been infected with the influenza virus.
“We found that the serum had a direct antiviral effect against the flu virus,” said lead researcher, Dr. Golnoosh Torabian. Experts say that elderberry extract contains bioactive ingredients, such as anthocyanin flavonoids, which appear to block viruses from binding to cells. Since COVID-19, sales of elderberry soared to $276 million in 2020, five times the sales figure in 2018, reflecting the public’s respect for its disease-fighting and immune-boosting properties. It should be noted that elderberry is not an alternative to the COVID-19 vaccine and will not protect against the disease, say experts.
You can purchase supplements in the form of gummies, lozenges, syrups, and teas. The European elder or black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) is the species most often use in supplements. According to CNET, there haven’t been enough studies to support children taking elderberry extract and it is not recommended for children under the age of five. Individuals who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also exercise caution in taking elderberry. If you have an autoimmune disorder, such as lupus or multiple sclerosis, elderberry may exacerbate your symptoms. Check with your healthcare provider to ensure that elderberry doesn’t interact with any other medications you are taking.
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