You know the signs: runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, head and chest congestion, lung-wracking cough, fever, chills and body aches. For thousands of years, millions of people have been suffering through the common cold and flu — with no cure in sight. Sure, you can find some relief from cold and flu-like symptoms with over-the-counter medications. In severe cases, your doctor may even prescribe an antiviral drug like Tamiflu. 

Many people, however, are reluctant to take drugs, or find the side effects almost as bad as the cold. Fortunately, researchers have looked into a promising alternative for those seeking a more natural way to fight off cold and flu symptoms and feel better faster: Elderberry syrup. 

From Stories to Science: Researching the Efficacy of Elderberry 

A remedy as old as folklore, elderberry syrup has been used for hundreds of years to combat colds. You’ll even find mention of a tea remedy made from elderberry blossoms in the fairy tales of Hans Christian Anderson. But until recently, the beneficial effects of elderberry syrup have largely been anecdotal.  

That’s changing. Over the past few years, scientists performing in vitro studies have found that elderberry extract is active against human pathogen bacteria and influenza viruses (H1N1). In separate clinical trials involving people, researchers also discovered that liquid elderberry extract and elderberry extract lozenges reduced the severity and duration of cold and flu-like symptoms. 

Reducing Upper Respiratory Symptoms with Elderberry 

Following the promising results of these studies, Jessie Hawkins, PhD — the Clinical Research Director at the Franklin Health Research Center — led the first meta-analysis of elderberry supplementation in the treatment of upper respiratory symptoms. Dr. Hawkins and her team examined and compiled the results of four studies involving 180 participants — 89 of which were given elderberry and 91 in the control group that did not receive elderberry. 

Applying a random effects model to the studies, Dr. Hawkins and her team were able to evaluate the efficacy of elderberry supplementation in relieving participants’ upper respiratory symptoms. Their calculations showed that the supplement seemed to substantially reduce symptom duration. 

What’s more, their research showed that the flu vaccine had minimal effect on the results of elderberry supplementation, and that elderberry supplements reduced symptoms related to both colds and flu, with greater demonstrated efficacy for flu symptoms. 

“These findings are exciting,” explained Dr. Hawkins. “While elderberry syrup has become a household staple, studies on its effects have been small and sparse. We are now able to quantify the effects of elderberry and to understand how these effects differ based on factors such as underlying pathology and vaccination status.” 

Dr. Hawkins and her researchers are careful to point out that their analysis only encompassed 180 participants, and that three of the four studies they focused on were funded by elderberry supplement manufacturers. Still, the findings indicate that elderberry may be a viable option for people looking for a natural alternative to treating their cold and flu-like symptoms. 

The best part yet: you don’t need a prescription to get your hands on elderberry. These days, elderberry syrup, lozenges, and gummies are available in most drug stores as well as from online retailers. For those DIY fans, elderberry syrup can also be made at home; just be sure to thoroughly heat the syrup to remove any toxic compounds in the berries that might cause an upset stomach. 

For people seeking alternatives to traditional prescription drugs, natural remedies like elderberry may offer the ideal solution. There’s also an alternative to traditional healthcare insurance with Christian health sharing. 

Christian health share programs are attracting a growing number of Americans who want a more holistic approach to maintaining health and wellness — one that protects individual religious liberties while lowering healthcare costs. In faith-based health sharing programs, members who share similar beliefs and values — and who agree to live healthy lifestyles — come together to help share medical expenses.  

What’s more, many Christian health share programs give their members to freedom to seek out alternative medicines and treatments, and make their own decisions when it comes to what’s best for them and their families. Learn more about Christian health sharing here.