We’re hearing reports of elderberry syrup flying off the shelves as this flu season continues to do its worst. Already 38 people in Travis County have died from the flu this season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is calling it an epidemic and said it is the worst flu season since the swine flu of 2009.
Does elderberry actually do anything to lessen the length of the flu?
It might, says Dr. Barbara Kiersz Mueller, a family doctor at Austin Regional Clinic. There are some small studies — those with 25 to 50 people in them — that have shown that elderberry might decrease the duration of an upper respiratory infection, she says. Germany actually did a study about seven years ago that showed that elderberry reduced the effects of influenza A and B by 20 percent to 25 percent. “That’s better than zero,” says Kiersz Mueller.
Another supplement that Kiersz Mueller recommends if you have the flu or another virus is oregano capsules. They destroys the capsule around the virus and affect the RNA inside, causing the virus to die. Oregano has not be studied specifically for influenza, Kiersz Mueller says, but it has been shown to lessen the length of viruses like the norovirus.
Kiersz Mueller does have patients who are coming to see her that have been taking elderberry syrup and their symptoms aren’t getting any better, by then, they are past the two- to three-day window for taking the antiviral drug Tamiflu. You could take both Tamiflu and elderberry or oregano to lessen the flu and not miss the Tamiflu window.
Elderberry and oregano don’t prevent getting sick, though. To boost your immune system, you would want to take about 500 milligrams of Vitamin C a day. You wouldn’t want to take more than 1,000 milligrams. That could cause diarrhea.
You can find Vitamin C alone or also in over-the-counter cold prevention aids like Emergen-C or Airborne. If it has more than 500 milligrams, you can actually split the gummy or tablet so you are just taking 500 milligrams of Vitamin C, Kiersz Mueller says, to save some money.
Most of the time flu will go away on its own, she says. The danger with flu is that children or people who are older could develop something else like pneumonia, a muscle pain condition, viral meningitis or a heart attack.
It you’re coughing with the flu or have a fever, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. That’s your body fighting off the infection, Kiersz Mueller says. You just want to make sure you’re not coughing to the point of vomiting or that the fever isn’t above 102 in children or seniors, she says.