Certain black fruit can shield against colds and flu

Dr Hilary assures flu jab is 'safe as houses' on Lorraine

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Illnesses like colds and flu become difficult to avoid in the winter months. Not only does colder air weaken our resistance to illness, but the increased time spent inside together assists the spread of infection. Therefore, the use of certain natural remedies could help lower your risk of some seasonal illnesses.

One such natural remedy could be the consumption of elderberries.

Commonly found in the countryside of Britain, this fruit is a dark purple or black in appearance.

Various studies have found it could have restorative properties when it comes to colds and flu.

However, the berries should not be eaten raw as they contain a toxic substance that can lead to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea – instead they should be cooked first.

Andrew Petrou, registered dietary counsellor from Sambucol, explained: “Black elderberries (Sambucus nigra) have been used for centuries as a traditional, natural remedy used to fight colds in many parts of the world due to their immune-supporting and antioxidant properties.

“The high antioxidant benefits of black elderberries are attributed to the high flavonoid levels, specifically anthocyanins, that are responsible for the dark colour of the berry.

“Often taken as a supplement, the inherent properties of the black elderberry (when preserved during manufacturing), have been shown to reduce viral infections and have immune health benefits.”

What does research say?

One study, published in the Journal of International Medical Research in 2004, found that flu symptoms could be relieved four days earlier by consuming elderberry syrup.

As part of the trial, 60 patients with flu symptoms were given either 15ml of elderberry or placebo syrup four times a day for five days.

They recorded their symptoms using a visual analogue scale.

The study concluded: “Symptoms were relieved on average four days earlier and use of rescue medication was significantly less in those receiving elderberry extract compared with placebo.

“Elderberry extract seems to offer an efficient, safe and cost-effective treatment for influenza.”

A separate paper, from Complementary Therapies in Medicine in 2019, discovered that elderberry reduced the duration of upper airway symptoms caused by flu from a trial of 180 patients.

It said: “These findings present an alternative to antibiotic misuse for upper respiratory symptoms due to viral infections, and a potentially safer alternative to prescription drugs for routine cases of the common cold and influenza.”

How to consume elderberries

Mr Petrou added: “This often depends on the purpose for ingesting elderberries.

“If it is for maximising the health benefits, I recommend a supplement format which has evidence-based clinical studies such as Sambucol to guarantee consistent, immune supporting properties in every serving.

“If it is for experimenting with healthy herbs/fruits in everyday cooking then juicing, teas and jams are a great way to make use of the elderberries.

“However, it is important to understand that you should not ingest raw elderberries as they are toxic, they must be cooked to make the fruit completely safe to eat.”

BBC Good Food also states that elderberry syrup is one way to reap the health benefits of the fruit.

Common symptoms of flu include:

  • A sudden high temperature
  • An aching body
  • Feeling tired or exhausted
  • A dry cough
  • A sore throat
  • A headache
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhoea or tummy pain
  • Feeling sick and being sick.

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