Elderberry Compounds Directly Inhibit Flu Virus Entry and Replication in Human Cells

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Folk medicines and herbal products have been used for millennia to combat a wide range of ailments, and in the process confounding modern scientists who have struggled to understand their medicinal benefits.

Now a new study from the University of Sydney has revealed exactly how one popular ancient remedy – elderberry fruit – attacks and thwarts the influenza virus. The virus, one of the leading causes of mortality worldwide, affects nearly 10 percent of the world population and contributes to one million deaths annually.

In their new paper, Australian scientists describe how elderberry compounds directly inhibit the flu virus’s entry and replication in human cells, while also strengthening the body’s immune response to influenza.

Otherwise known as Sambucus nigra, the elderberry is a small, antioxidant rich fruit common to Europe and North America that is still commonly consumed as a jam or wine. Although elderberry’s flu-fighting properties have long been observed, the group performed a comprehensive examination of the mechanism by which phytochemicals, compounds that positively effect health, from elderberries combat influenza infections.

“Our study has shown that the common elderberry has a potent direct antiviral effect against the flu virus. It inhibits the early stages of an infection by blocking key viral proteins responsible for both the viral attachment and entry into the host cells,” said Dr Golnoosh Torabian.

The researchers used commercially farmed elderberries which were turned into a juice serum and were applied to cells before, during and after they had been infected with the influenza virus. The phytochemicals from the elderberry juice were shown to be effective at stopping the virus infecting the cells.

To their surprise, the researchers also observed that the elderberry phytochemicals were even more effective at inhibiting viral propagation at later stages of the influenza cycle after the cells were already infected with the virus.

“This observation was quite surprising and rather significant because blocking the viral cycle at several stages has a higher chance of inhibiting the viral infection.”

The study also revealed that elderberry phytochemicals stimulated infected cells to release cytokines, a class of chemical messengers the immune system uses for communication between different cell types to aid in coordinating a more efficient response against the invading pathogen.

The team also attributed elderberry’s potent antiviral activity to its anthocyanidin compounds – phytonutrients responsible for giving the fruit its vivid purple coloring.

Source: Golnoosh Torabian, Peter Valtchev, Qayyum Adil, Fariba Dehghani. Anti-influenza activity of elderberry (Sambucus nigra). Journal of Functional Foods, 2019; 54: 353 DOI: 10.1016/j.jff.2019.01.031

22 COMMENTS

  1. I know from firsthand family experience that raw elderberries are toxic-even dried. I think it would be responsible for this article to have mentioned this so people who are inclined to try alternate remedies don’t go rushing to consume elderberries in their raw form.

    • As well and being sure no stems or leaves when processing them for a remedy
      are in since they are toxic to humans. I hadn’t heard about raw ones.

    • raw elderberry fruit is a cleanser (bathroom) if you eat too much. A few berries will not do that but a few clusters…YES. Personally, I would not say they are toxic.

    • Elderberry plant can be toxic: Stems and Leaves; also from what I know is you only consume the black Elder NOT the Red! Elderberry Syrup and Tincture are good for aiding your immune system in fighting off Colds, Flues, and viruses by keeping your immune regulated and strong allowing your body to fight off what ever is going on.

  2. Loved this article. I’ve been taking elderberry syrup which I make myself at home during the winter season. It has protected me from flu and colds. I didn’t know the scientific reasons behind its efficacy but I always recommend it to family and friends. Now I know why it works!!

  3. Very informative. I use cider venegar with squashed garlic cloves to prevent colds, flu and it works great. Ill add more blueberries to my diet now. Any difference in consuming fresh as opposed tofrozen blueberries?

    • Garlic has wonderful antibiotic properties. For sinus infections I used to frequently get I would eat real garlic (no garlic capsules) – 3-4/day for 3-4 days. Throw it on salads, mix in left over lasagna, tucked in a nice warm piece of bread, any way you can. I’ve not gotten a prescription from the doctor’s for this in years now. I think you’re good with fresh OR frozen blueberries.

  4. What is the best way to harvest the berries. They are tiny and it has been hard for me to keep stems out. Thanks for any info.

  5. I will personally attest to the worth of Elderberries. They started growing wild in my yards. For years now I’ve been making my own elderberry cold and flu remedy. It works an immune booster so I have a jar every 2 weeks. Last winter I began a cold and hit it with my elderberry. It cut the duration and symptoms at least in half. My daughter had a manager who had been sick a month and I sent a jar. It cleaned him up immediately. I’m going to now get cultivated plants since the berries are so much bigger than the wild ones. Those things are stinking tiny to take off the stems. One must not include the stems or leaves as they are toxic to humans.

  6. Elderberries are an Immunomodulator If the immune system is to High it will bring it down, and if immune is to low it will bring it up; regulates it… Where as Echinacea is an Immune stimulant causing the immune system to stay high. With some of these Flu/Viruses the immune system is already too high and needs to be regulated. Hence the use of Elderberries. Elderberry helps the body by keeping the immune regulated so the body can fight the flu/viruses. I would like to see actual links to these scientific test you speak of which should have already been attached to your article please and thank you!

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