A Doctor’s Take on Elderberry and COVID 19 Prevention 03/23/2020
Black elderberry (Sambucus Nigra), as many practitioners and patients of integrative medicine practices are aware, is often valued for its potential antiviral properties. Various studies have demonstrated that elderberry has a direct antiviral action AND may enhance our immune system by raising the levels of various pro-inflammatory cytokines, which improves our ability to fight an infection. It is this latter effect that has caused much controversy about its use as a supplement during the current COVID-19 outbreak.
There are many cytokines that are released in response to an infection. Initially, many of these proinflammatory cytokines (PICs) are critical to mount an effective battle. Once these PICs reach a certain level, the body will "hit the brakes" by releasing anti-inflammatory cytokines and other related compounds in order to balance the response, thus preventing our healthy cells from being damaged by our own attack. The IL-6 cytokine, as well as other PICs, typically rise in response to a viral load. It is prudent to note that a cytokine storm can manifest in response to many viruses, including influenza, independent of ingesting any particular supplement.
Although elderberry may increase IL-6 and other cytokines, it also inhibits the early stages of infection by blocking specific viral proteins responsible for attachment and entry of the virus into our cells, as well as viral replication once inside the cell. One would hope this effect may possibly offset the potential for a cytokine storm by mitigating a large enough release of IL-6. This is likely why we have not seen a "cytokine storm" in regard to treating various viruses with elderberry.
That being said, concerns are not necessarily unfounded either! We found one study that suggests that the coronavirus associated with the previous SARS outbreak may trigger a higher IL-6 release than influenza does, and may also interfere with our ability to hit the brakes on IL-6. We do not know, however, if that effect is large enough to be clinically relevant. Additionally, one of the drugs being investigated to fight COVID-19 is designed to lower our IL-6 levels during an infection.
In light of the above information as well as our extensive use of elderberry for many viral infections (including the coronaviruses that are responsible for about a quarter of common colds), we are recommending a balanced approach. While recognizing the critical role of IL-6 in mounting an adequate response to any pathogen, as well as the direct antiviral effects of elderberry, we suggest using this supplement for preventative purposes, contributing to a robust immune system during this outbreak.
In an attempt to reduce the chances of a viral infection, in addition to our other immune supporting recommendations, at the first sign of viral symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath upon exertion, fatigue, body aches, or diarrhea, which early evidence suggests may also be a symptom of COVID-19), we continue to support the judicial use of black elderberry as a component of our complete protocol, along with other supplements, designed to keep the immune system strong and balanced.
We acknowledge the concern of cytokine overstimulation exists; however, we feel that, based on elderberry's antiviral effects and a long history of use within the practice of integrative medicine, the benefits of use outweigh the currently understood risks.
- Dr. David Berger
While elderberry products can boost immune systems, aid in preventing illness, and shorten colds and flus, many have recommended against its use if you CURRENTLY HAVE OR THINK YOU HAVE COVID-19. In this very specific case it is now believed by some doctors that elderberry will not aid in RECOVERY from COVID-19 and may actually lengthen and worsen its symptoms. If you feel you are ALREADY infected please seek medical treatment. We also suggest substituting our Fire Cider in place of the Elderberry Syrup if you are battling Covid 19.
Elderberry products are still your best natural and organic defense against contracting all families and strains of colds and flus because of its capability of boosting the immune system overall and keeping cooties at bay.
We are monitoring the situation and will post any developing information related to elderberry consumption and its connection to COVID-19 exposure.