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For hundreds of years in Europe and North America, the
elderberry has been used to treat many ailments, from asthma to
bronchitis, as well as stomach and urinary tract problems. In
fact Hippocrates, the Greek "father of medicine," called the
elderberry tree his "medicine chest."
Elderberries and elderberry juice have also long been used as
treatments for the common cold and influenza. Knowing this, Dr.
Madeleine Mumcuoglu, a prominent Israeli virologist, isolated
compounds in black elderberry that disable the protein that
viruses use to infect healthy cells. From this research, Dr.
Mumcuoglu developed an elderberry extract called Sambucol, which
many of you probably heard about last year from William Campbell
Douglass, M.D., in his Daily Dose e-letter.
Now, a recent study (to be published in an upcoming issue of The
Journal of International Medical Research) has demonstrated the
effectiveness of Sambucol in easing the symptoms and shortening
the duration of the flu.
More than 50 patients diagnosed with type A flu, and six
patients with type B flu, were enrolled in the study conducted
by researchers at the University of Oslo School of Medicine in
Norway. At the onset of flu symptoms, subjects were given either
one tablespoon of Sambucol or a placebo four times a day for
five days. The patients who received Sambucol were considered
recovered from the flu in 3.1 days, on average, while those in
the placebo group recovered in 7.1 days, on average.
These results confirm the findings of a 1993 study conducted on
patients during a flu outbreak in Israel. As reported in The
Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, almost 90
percent of the subjects in that study who took Sambucol daily
recovered from flu symptoms within three days. Those in the
placebo group took six or more days to recover.
More than treatment alone?
Several of the reports about Sambucol have stressed the fact
that neither Sambucol nor black elderberry has been tested as a
preventive against the flu. But a 2001 laboratory study at the
Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem, Israel, showed that
in addition to having antiviral properties, Sambucol activated
the immune response by increasing the production of inflammatory
cytokine - the proteins that regulate the immune system.
So even though no trials can yet confirm Sambucol's use as a
preventive agent, the Hadassah University researchers theorized
that Sambucol, "could also have an immunoprotective or
immunostimulatory effect when administered to cancer or AIDS
patients in conjunction with chemotherapeutic or other
Obviously, much more research will be required to demonstrate
Sambucol's effectiveness in the prevention of influenza and
other diseases. But until then, the evidence of its ability to
quickly relieve flu symptoms continues to increase.
Sambucol is carried by many health food stores, and is available
through sources easily found on the Internet by entering
"Sambucol" in any search engine.
"Black Elderberry Extract May Reduce Flu Symptoms"
NutraIngredients, 12/12/03, nutraingredients.com
"Don't Let the Flu Bugs Bite" William Campbell Douglass II,
M.D., Daily Dose, 11/15/02
"Inhibition of Several Strains of Influenza Virus in Vitro and
Reduction of Symptoms by an Elderberry Extract (Sambucus nigra
L.) During an Outbreak of Influenza B Panama" Journal of
Alternative and Complementary Medicine, v. 1, no. 4, Winter
"The Effect of Sambucol, a Black Elderberry-Based, Natural
Product, on the Production of Human Cytokines: I. Inflammatory
Cytokines" European Cytokine Network, v. 12, no. 2, April-June
"Exercise Prescriptions" Family Health Matters, 12/26/03
"Keeping Fit has Long-Term Benefit" BBC News, 12/17/03,