The cold and flu season has begun here in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that influenza activity typically begins to increase in October and November, with most flu activity peaking between December and February.
According to the CDC, the flu results in up to 35.6 million illnesses each year in the United States.
So, as we enter the flu season, it may be advantageous to take a look at ways individuals prevent contracting the virus and products used to remedy the illness if one does contract the flu.
Two such products are elderberry and oseltamivir, let’s take a look…
Elderberry (Sambucus) is an anti-viral herb used as a remedy for flu symptoms as it contains antioxidants, such as quercetin and kaempferol, which protect the body cells from free radical damage. Elderberry also stimulates the body’s immune system by increasing cytokine production which regulates the immune response to inflammation and infection, according to a 2016 study published in the Research Journal of Pharmacy and Technology.
Elderberry exerts its anti-viral properties when it binds to the virus before it penetrates cell walls, which prevents the virus from spreading and infecting the individual who has been exposed.
One study of 473 patients from multiple primary care clinics compared the effects of a formulation of elderberry and echinacea to the drug oseltamivir as an early intervention and treatment for the flu. This study found that recovery from upper respiratory infection symptoms was comparable in the two treatment groups. Further, this study found that nausea and vomiting occurred five times more frequently in the oseltamivir drug group than in the elderberry/echinacea group.
Another study, reported in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, used liquid cultures and found elderberry to exert strong anti-viral activity, while the flavonoids found in the berries bound to and prevented the H1N1 type influenza virus infection in vitro.
A 2004 randomized study with sixty patients suffering flu-like symptoms tested the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. This study found elderberry extract to offer an efficient and safe, as well as cost-effective, treatment for the flu.
A 2001 double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study tested black elderberry extract and found it to be effective against ten strains of influenza virus, while it also reduced the duration of the flu symptoms to 3-4 days.
Elderberry is said to be generally non-toxic, although it contains cyanogenic glycosides, a potentially harmful substance which can be converted during the digestive process and cause symptoms such as nausea and diarrhea in some individuals when large quantities of the fruit are ingested.
Elderberry is said to have no significant drug interactions. However, there has been little research in this area.
Oseltamivir, sold under the brand name of Tamiflu, is a medication that is used to prevent and treat some types of influenza infections.
Oseltamivir is a neuraminidase inhibitor and works by interfering with the neuraminidase (a glycoprotein) enzyme on the surface of the flu virus which prevents the virus from leaving the cell and spreading to other cells of the body.
The CDC states that Oseltamivir is approved for treatment of uncomplicated influenza infections in individuals older than 18 years of age who have been symptomatic for no more than two days, as replication of the virus peaks between 24 and 72 hours after the onset of the illness.
The CDC further states that the benefits of taking oseltamivir within two days of becoming ill, are that oseltamivir can reduce the duration of moderate or severe symptoms, such as a runny nose, sore throat, fever, and muscle or joint aches, of an uncomplicated flu by one day.
A 2005 journal article in The New England Journal of Medicine found oseltamivir to have few adverse effects, occurring in about 10% of patients, such as nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
Oseltamivir is taken orally and comes in capsule and liquid suspension forms. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), cautions certain individuals, such as those pregnant or breastfeeding, and those with certain intolerances, such as fructose intolerance, to consult their doctor before using oseltamivir as it may cause problems such as allergic reactions.
Elderberry and Oseltamivir have anti-viral properties
Elderberry binds to the virus to prevent it from spreading, and Oseltamivir inhibits the glycoprotein enzyme on the virus to keep it from spreading
Elderberry is a natural herb, and Oseltamivir is a synthetic (man-made) medicine
Elderberry contains other supportive substances, such as antioxidants, and Oseltamivir comes in capsule or liquid forms and can contain other inactive ingredients, such as titanium dioxide and synthetic dyes that have been linked to disease states in the body
Studies show Elderberry can reduce the duration of flu symptoms by 3-4 days, and Oseltamivir has been shown to reduce the duration of symptoms by 1-2 days
Jeremiah 8:22 “Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?”
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Krawitz, C., Mraheil, M. A., Stein, M., Imirzalioglu, C., Domann, E., Pleschka, S., & Hain, T. (2011). Inhibitory activity of a standardized elderberry liquid extract against clinically-relevant human respiratory bacterial pathogens and influenza A and B viruses. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 11, 16. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1472-6882-11-16