(From the Black Elderberry Information site.)
Threats to the Immune System – Viruses
The most common threat to your immune system is from viruses. A virus is a tiny disease-causing particle that likes to live in your body’s cells. The virus that most of us know about is the common cold virus. Although more than 200 viruses can cause a common cold, the rhinovirus is the most common culprit, and it is highly contagious.
A cold virus enters your body through your mouth or nose, but it is likely you also had a “hand” in your own illness. The virus can spread through droplets in the air when someone who is sick coughs, sneezes or talks. But it also spreads by hand-to-hand contact with someone who has a cold or by using shared objects, such as utensils, towels, toys or telephones. Touch your eyes, nose or mouth after such contact or exposure, and you’re likely to “catch” a cold.
Studies have shown that taking a supplement containing black elderberry may be beneficial to help boost the immune system at times when it may be weakened, such as when suffering with a cold, flu or other viruses. A study using an elderberry extract (Zakay-Rones 1995) showed inhibition of several flu viruses in vitro.
An Antiviral Agent – ‘Antivirin’
Viruses are unable to multiply on their own and need to be inside healthy cells to do so. To help them enter a cell some viruses are coated with haemagglutinin spikes. Black Elderberry Extract is believed to contain an antiviral agent, ‘Antivirin’ which can help neutralise the activity of the haemagglutinin spikes. When these spikes are deactivated the viruses can no longer pierce cell walls to enter the cell and replicate.
“If you can stop them from invading cells, you’ve defeated the disease”, says Dr. Mumcuoglu. She tested the black elderberry proteins against the Influenza B virus first, and discovered that “they actually prevent the virus from invading the cell”. The influenza virus invades cells by puncturing the cell wall with the tiny spikes of hemaglutinin that cover its surface. The active ingredient in the elderberry DISARMS the spikes, binds to them, thus stopping them from piercing the cell membrane. “This was the first discovery”, says Dr. Mumcuoglu. “Next, we found evidence that elderberry proteins fight the influenza virus in another way, too. The viral spikes are covered with the enzyme, neuraminidase, which helps break down the cell wall. The elderberry inhibits the action of the enzyme.
Elderberries are particularly rich in flavonoids, in particular anthocyanins. These act as powerful antioxidants to help the immune system defend itself. Anthocyanins are found in the pigment of purple, dark blue and red fruits such as the black elderberry. Elderberries contain higher flavonoid content than other fruits including cranberries, blackcurrants and blackberries and almost 5 times the anthocyanins content of blueberries. Due to the high anthocyanin content, the black elderberry has powerful antioxidant properties to also help attack the viruses.
Effective in the treatment of flu
Research data from studies around the world have proven black elderberry extract to be effective in shortening the duration of influenza A and B. Below are some research highlights:
1995 (Zakay-Rones)- A double blind placebo controlled study was conducted during an outbreak of influenza B Panama. 93.3% of the cases treated with black elderberry compound saw a significant improvement of the symptoms. A complete cure was achieved within 2 to 3 days in nearly 90% of those treated with the black elderberry extract within two-three days, three days less than the placebo group.
2001 – (Barak, Halperin and Kalickman) 2 in-vitro studies have shown that extracts from black elderberry were beneficial to the stimulation of the immune system.
2004 –( Zakay-Rones) In a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled study, black elderberry extract was shown to significantly reduce the duration of the flu by around four days. Significantly less people who were taking the extract took pain relievers compared to the placebo group.
2005 –(Balasingham ) During an in-vitro study carried out in London, black elderberry extract was found to be at least 99% effective against the H5N1 strain otherwise known as Avian Bird Flu.
Effective as an immune booster
Medical science has only recently discovered the likely basis for the elderberry’s health-giving reputation. Studies (Pietta 2000, Mateus 2004) have shown that elderberries are unusually rich in the phytochemicals known as flavonoids.
Among all fruits, elderberries are the most concentrated source of anthocyanins, a class of flavonoids that act as powerful antioxidants to boost the immune system and protect the body’s cells from harm.
These anthocyanins are found in the purple pigment of black elderberries, and according to Dr. Gerhard Rechkemmer, president of Germany’s Federal Research Institute for Nutrition and Food, they have significantly greater antioxidant capacity than common antioxidants such as Vitamin C. In fact, Dr. Rechkemmer’s research has shown that the anthocyanins in black elderberry actually boost the production of cytokines, the proteins that act as messengers within our immune system, and thereby serve to enhance the body’s immune response.
Cytokines play a crucial role in the immune system’s response to disease. Cytokines work in ways very similar to hormones. They are released by immune cells into the blood stream or locally into body tissue during an immune response.
There are many different types of cytokines including interleukins, interferons and tumor necrosis factors. Several studies have shown that extracts from the fruits of the black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) may help to activate the immune system by increasing inflammatory cytokine production. (Barak 2001, Barak2002))
Both studies above found that extracts from black elderberries helped increase the production of interleukins 6 and 8 (IL-6, IL-8) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-á). All of which have been shown to have pro-inflammatory properties in fighting infection (2,3).
One study (Barak 2002) also demonstrated that an extract of black elderberry increased the production of the anti-inflammatory cytokine Il-10.