Regular air traveler? Elderberries may help deal with the sniffles
08/27/2019 // Melissa Smith // Views

If you’re a regular air traveler, try consuming elderberries (Sambucus nigra) first before traveling. A study published in the journal Nutrients suggested that elderberries are a great natural medicine for the common cold. The study found that elderberry extracts can help reduce the duration and symptoms of the common cold in air travelers.

Traveling by air can be stressful, not only mentally but also physically. It also makes you vulnerable to contracting or spreading communicable diseases such as the common cold.

Because elderberries have long been used in traditional medicine as a remedy for colds and influenza infections, a team of researchers from Griffith University and the Queensland University of Technology in Australia looked at its efficacy on improving and preventing respiratory problems like the common cold. The research team also examined whether the plant could improve the mental health of people traveling by air.

To do so, the research team recruited 312 economy class passengers traveling from Australia to an overseas destination. The participants received either elderberry or a placebo supplement for a total of 15 days. They consumed their assigned treatment 10 days before their flight until five days after arriving at their destination.

In addition, they noted in a daily diary their cold episodes, cold duration, and symptoms. They also completed surveys containing questions about their upper respiratory symptoms and quality of life at the beginning of the study, just before travel, and four days after travel.


The researchers found that those who took a placebo had more cold episodes than those who consumed an elderberry extract. The placebo group also had a longer duration of cold episode days and more cold symptoms over than those in the elderberry group.

The consumption of elderberry was also found to be safe as it did not cause any adverse effects. However, the researchers did not find any changes in the mental health of the participants after elderberry intake. Taken together, the researchers suggested that supplementation with elderberry could significantly reduce the duration and severity of cold among air travelers.

Other health benefits of elderberries

Another study reported that elderberries could shorten the duration of flu. The study, which was published in the BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, found that people with the flu who consumed 15 milliliters (mL) of elderberry syrup four times daily for five days had their symptoms resolve four days earlier than those who took a placebo.

Elderberries can also be used to relieve pain. They contain active ingredients that can relieve the pain caused by inflammation. While studies on their analgesic effects are limited, many studies have reported that the fruit’s anthocyanins inhibit the production of nitrous oxide by the immune cells in the body. Nitrous oxide serves as a signaling molecule that promotes inflammation in response to injury or disease. By inhibiting this response, pain and swelling may be eased.

Dried elderberries can also be made into tea, which can be used to help relieve constipation. Elderberries have a laxative effect due to its compound called anthraquinone, which inhibits the absorption of water in the intestines. In turn, this increases intestinal pressure, stimulating muscle contractions to promote clearance of the bowel. While there is limited research on elderberries’ laxative properties, it is generally accepted that the effects are mild and safe when used to treat occasional, uncomplicated constipation.

Avoid consuming too many elderberries as it may cause abdominal cramping, diarrhea, and stomachache because of their laxative effects. If you’re using them for medicine, only use ripe or dried berries. This is because certain parts of the elderberry plant, including the bark, leaves, stems, and roots, contain cyanogenic glycoside, which is a type of poison. Unripe berries also contain trace amounts of it, which can release cyanide into the body if chewed. Although poisoning from elderberries is rarely life-threatening, it may cause abdominal distention, diarrhea, dizziness, difficulty breathing, and vomiting. (Related: Prepping basics: DIY Elderberry remedies that can help prevent colds or the flu.)

Read more stories on natural treatments for colds like elderberry by going to

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