November 6, 2018 (Cleveland Clinic)
While there are many kinds of elderberry plants, the flowers and berries of Sambucus nigra (known as European elder) are the most studied and used in herbal formulas, according to Dr. Irina Rodorov, MD, an integrative medicine physician.
Sambucol, a formulation of elderberry extract, has been shown to fight symptoms of the flu in several small studies.
In a randomized study of 60 adults exhibiting flu-like symptoms, those who took 15 mL of elderberry extract, Sambucol, four times a day, experienced symptom clear-up four days earlier than those who took a placebo syrup.
In another study, which tested the effectiveness in air travelers, it was discovered that those who took the elderberry syrup had a shorter duration of cold symptoms which were also less severe than those in the control group.
While outcomes of these studies are promising, it is not recommended to substitute elderberry extract in place of annual flu shot. Given that these studies are small in nature, larger scaled studies are required to support any recommendation that elderberry extract be used as a method of prevention and/or treatment of the common cold and flu.
However, fortunately, the elderberry extract does not appear to carry any real risk of adverse effects, so using it as part of a healthy diet would not pose any harmful effects.
For individuals searching for a quality product, it is recommended to use products that have been studied in clinical research and offered positive effects.
Another approach to assuring a quality product for patients is to check the label and make sure it is a common and botanical name of the active ingredient. Locating the manufacturers name and contact information, lot number and expiration date that has not passed are other pieces of information to pay attention to when choosing a quality product.