Cart Smarts: Respect your elderberries

October 3, 2018

During last year’s terrible flu season, we had a hard time keeping anything with the word “elderberry” on the shelves. It seemed that everyone in town was stocking up on this potent vitamin C-packed fruit in an effort to fight off the flu.

As a registered dietitian, I tend to be skeptical of most health claims made by herbal supplements unless there is sufficient scientific evidence to back them.

Fortunately, there have been a handful of studies done on elderberries — or more specifically, the extract of black elderberries, which is called Sambucol. One small study based in Norway found that patients taking Sambucol found relief from flu symptoms four days earlier than those taking a placebo. Another study, based in Germany, found Sambucol to be effective in inhibiting the growth of the influenza virus.

While additional larger studies still need to be done, certainly the flu-fighting benefits of elderberries are convincing and pose very little risk for side effects. It should be noted that elderberries may be beneficial for treatment of the flu, but have not been shown to help prevent the flu. The best way to prevent the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is to get vaccinated.

You can find elderberries on your grocery store shelves in many different forms including tea bags, syrup, gummies, liquid extract and lozenges. Typically, these products are located in the health food section.

If you do find yourself coming down with flu symptoms, this elderberry tea recipe may help you get back on your feet as quickly as possible.

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