The People's Perspective on Medicine

Elderberry Extract Against Colds

Q. I have found that elderberry extract really helps against the common cold. If I start taking it soon enough I can keep the cold from getting a foothold.

A. German researchers have found that a standardized elderberry extract is active against bacteria and viruses that cause upper respiratory tract infections (BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Feb. 25, 2011). Although the preliminary research is promising, more clinical studies are needed (Phytotherapy Research, Jan. 2010).

You will find more information on elderberry in our Herb Library. We have been known to collect and dry the flowers in the summer to use in winter as a soothing tea when we suffer from a cough or a cold. Elderberry extract is also available commercially in several herbal remedy products such as Sambucol or Zand. You can learn about other herbal remedies for colds in our Guide to Colds, Coughs & the Flu.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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Can you share the recipe for the elderberry wine or not? sounds great? I have used elderberry extract for 7 years and have not had the flu at all! It really does help with upper respiratory and allergies etc. even in the summer. Its just great!

I came down with a cold recently and it’s gone now except for chest congestion and a runny nose. I tried everything I could find to get rid of it online and nothing helped to loosen it even a little. I also bought an off brand of mucinex and it didn’t help whatsoever. Then my aunt gave me some mullein leaves and elderberry syrup and for the first time I was actually able to get rid of some of it! It’s amazing. Natural is not only better but sometimes it’s the only thing that works!

I am convinced of the effectiveness of elderberry extract (liquid). I have a long history of colds lingering for up to three weeks, with bronchitis and/or sinus infections further complications. I’ve been taking elderberry at the first sign of a cold: two tablespoons twice a day. Today I’m on the third day of a cold and feel it’s almost gone. Day 1 was a sore throat. Day 2 was chest congestion. I slept most of Day 2 and awoke today with very few symptoms.

I take elderberry syrup, and sometimes the capsule. Can’t tell which is better. They both work if taken with the first sneezes and runny nose. I love the taste of the syrup. I Also take andrographis, astralagus and echinacea. Why these remedies work, I haven’t a clue. But double-blind studies have been done on them. All I know is they have to be from a very reputable herb company or they may not be efficacious.
I have stopped many a virus trying to make in-roads into my respiratory system. The trick is not to take these immune boosters unless you feel symptoms or have been severely stressed,i.e. lack of sleep several nights… Take everyday and the body will adjust to them being on board and they will no longer work as well.

Back in the 40’s and 50’s my Father made Elderberry wine and jelly. If we felt a chill or cold coming on we children were put to bed and given a couple tablespoons of warm elderberry wine which gave us a nice good nights sleep and by morning were healed. Parents did same. Rather health family now I know why.

Elderberry extract is by far my favorite cold remedy, or rather preventive remedy. I no longer get colds, because I always take elderberry extract at the first sign of one. I do not fear catching the flu, because elderberry extract is such a great anti-viral agent.
I have to disagree with one thing I read about elderberry in the People’s Pharmacy Herb Library: “Prudence suggests that pregnant women and nursing mothers should not use elderberry.” This was written right after a section about dangers of toxicity from elderberry leaves and stems, which pregnant or nursing women might indeed want to avoid. But I’ve heard from a well-known herbalist that elderberry extract can be taken by a nursing woman who’s baby has a cold, to help the baby recover faster. And pregnant women will want to do their own research, but personally, if I were pregnant and felt a cold or flu coming on, I would not hesitate to use elderberry extract. I feel that it is perfectly safe, whereas there could possibly be problems for babies whose mothers get sick during gestation, especially if they wind up taking OTC medicines for cold or flu symptoms.

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