The days are growing longer and cooler, which not only heralds winter but also cold and flu season. Last year we covered Echinacea as a popular alternative for colds and flu. Available as a stand-alone product, Echinacea is also available as a combined product with another popular herbal ingredient: black elderberry. Let’s have a look at black elderberry for colds and flu.
What is Black Elderberry?
Black elderberry is a type of elder that fruits black berries which are used as a cooking ingredient and herbal remedy. It most commonly refers to sambucus nigra. Other types of elderberry can be toxic. Varieties of black coloured elderberry include, but are not limited to:
- Sambucus australis (southern elder)
- Sambucus canadensis (American elder)
- Sambucus cerulea (blue elderberry)
- Sambucus javanica (Chinese elder)
- Sambucus nigra (elder or black elder)
- Sambucus lanceolata (Madeira elder)
- Sambucus mexicana (Mexican elder)
- Sambucus palmensis (Canary Islands elder)
- Sambucus peruviana (Peruvian elder)
- Sambucus simpsonii (Florida elder)
- Sambucus velutina (velvet elder).
Considered non-toxic, sambucus nigra is the ingredient most often found in herbal cold and flu preparations. The berries and flowers are usually used in sweet culinary dishes such as pies, jams and cordials. Different varieties of black elderberry have been used across the world by different cultures for its medicinal properties. Most commonly, it has been used as an expectorant and for relief of fever, sore throats and congestion. In 1995, a commercial preparation was tested in-vitro against influenza, and found to be a very effective low cost, side-effect free treatment against the illness. Black elderberry has also been noted to be an antioxidant, diuretic, laxative and anti-inflammatory.
How is Elderberry prepared?
Black elderberry for medicinal uses can be prepared in many ways, including:
- Mixed cold and flu tablet preparations
Is taking Elderberry safe?
Aside from allergy, there have been no documented side effects from taking black elderberry. It has been shown to interact with certain medications such as immune-suppressants. If you are on medicines to control your immune system, you should speak with your GP before taking black elderberry.
What to do if you have a cold or flu
In general, it is a good idea to rest, keep warm, drink fluids and eat healthy food. Paracetamol can be used to provide some comfort. Wash your hands after sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose to prevent the spread of infection. If you want to take herbal and complementary medicines, it is safe to do so if they are not contraindicated. Most colds clear up after a few days on their own, and if symptoms worsen or persist, you may need to speak to your GP.
If your sinus problems are ongoing contact your local doctor, who will arrange for you to see an ENT Specialist. Contact us today.