Black elderberry prevention

Here we are right smack dab in the middle of the cold and flu season!  Aside from the aches, pains, and discomfort, we suffer downtime from our busy schedules and commitments.  Who among us wouldn’t just rather avoid getting sick?

Well, fortunately, there are proven ways to avoid – or at least minimize – symptoms of a cold or flu.  We’re all accustomed to the practical and effective advice of frequent hand washing, flu vaccination, and maintaining a healthy body, mind, and spirit to fight off a virus before it brings us down.  But there are other effective strategies we can take that may be less commonly known.

Sambucus nigra or black elderberry

To avoid a cold, did you know that Sambucus nigra or black elderberry tinctures and syrups actually help to incapacitate a virus, and minimize its infective capacity?  How can something so delicious be so effective?

It has been shown in several studies that black elderberry blunts the pointy spikes on the virus protein coats so that the spikes, rather than having needle-like points are rounded, or dulled, and not nearly as effective at piercing cell membranes.  With lower capability to pierce the protective membranes, viral contents that would otherwise enter and infect the body’s cells are kept outside the cells and more exposed to the innate immune system. They can be eliminated from the body before reaching the threshold that brings on cold symptoms.

Using black elderberry as a preventative a few times a week in doses of a teaspoon or two can make a big difference in your ability to fight off a cold that might otherwise bring you down for a week or two.  Alternatively, if we are infected and take double doses of elderberry at the first symptoms, we can kick that particular cold to the curb within a day or so.

Add Zinc

On the other side of the virus infection equation, we can strengthen the cell membranes and make them less permeable to piercing by virus particles by taking a good zinc supplement in 25 – 100 mg doses with a small dose – say 100 mg – of vitamin C.  The two together strengthen cell membranes very quickly. If taken at the first sign of a cold, the symptoms can be knocked back in as few as a couple of hours. Zinc can cause mild nausea in some people, so be aware of that in advance. I like to think of it as the feeling of a battle between good vs. evil, and good winning out as the nausea lifts.  It only lasts an hour at most in most people and is minimized or absent in smaller doses.

Zinc is not a supplement that is desirable to take on a long-term basis unless there is a nutritional necessity for supplementing but to prevent or lessen symptoms from an existing early infection, it’s tough to beat for short term use.

So to prevent a cold or possibly flu, a teaspoon or two of black elderberry every other day or so, and a one-two punch if we note symptoms with doubling the elderberry and adding in zinc and vitamin C.

Black elderberry tincture can be purchased at a higher-end grocery store or a high-quality herb or health food store, or even at the drug store in a less desirable but usually effective sugary syrup.  The alcohol-free, glycerite tinctures are the preferred form, but the alcohol extracts and sugar syrups work too. A one-ounce tincture usually runs $8-12, and the sugary syrup around $15 for 3-4 ounces.

Prevent and beat back those colds with a frequent, delicious taste of black elderberry!  Nothing prevents using it as or with pancake syrup or in your morning blueberry smoothie.  Food as medicine!

Dennis Perry, ND

Dr. Perry is a naturopathic doctor in Coos Bay, OR and has been practicing for 7 years. He is in the process of opening a low-no cost clinic in Cambria, California in early 2020, practicing as a California-licensed naturopathic doctor with focus on traditional natural medicine and regenerative therapies, again for the underserved.