Now that I have decided not to have the H1N1 vaccination, I am looking around for natural ways to protect myself and my family. One very very promising substance appears to be elderberry (Sambucus nigra). It’s the same old tune: this plant has been used for ages in folk medicine to treat flu, colds and sinusitis. If you look it up on Wikipedia, you will find that it was shown to be effective for treating Influenza B. People using the elderberry extract recovered much faster than those only on a placebo. This is partially due to the fact that Elderberry inhibits neuraminidase, the enzyme used by the virus to spread infection to host cells.
Well, lo and behold, a July 2009 study showed that it was also effective against the horrid H1N1 virus in vitro: http://tinyurl.com/yh7gzef The elderberry extract blocked host cell entry and/or recognition. And read this: The H1N1 inhibition activities of the elderberry flavonoids compare favorably to the known anti-influenza activities of Oseltamivir (Tamiflu; 0.32 microM) and Amantadine (27 microM). Aha!
Here is a Medical News report about the above-mentioned study: http://tinyurl.com/nuumwe An excerpt: The research results are notable not only because they identified and characterized two specific flavonoids (plant nutrients that are beneficial to health) that are the major contributors to the anti-influenza activity of the elderberry extract, but also verified how the flavonoids provide that benefit, via direct binding to H1N1 virus particles and blocking the virus from infecting host cells.
This is nothing new, incidentally. I found a 1995 (!) study in PubMed, showing that a standardized elderberry extract, Sambucol (SAM), blocked the replication of human influenza viruses of various types, both A and B (the complete list can be found in the abstract: http://tinyurl.com/yhalylh). This extract was tested on a group of influenza B sufferers in 1993: A significant improvement of the symptoms, including fever, was seen in 93.3% of the cases in the SAM-treated group within 2 days, whereas in the control group 91.7% of the patients showed an improvement within 6 days. The abstract concludes: Considering the efficacy of the extract in vitro on all strains of influenza virus tested, the clinical results, its low cost, and absence of side-effects, this preparation could offer a possibility for safe treatment for influenza A and B.
And there is more: during the 1999-2000 flu season in Norway a study was carried out on 60 patients between the age of 18 and 54 with respiratory influenza symptoms. The full study is available online: http://tinyurl.com/d2sjl4 and is a good one to read, since it shows the efficacy of elderberry against influenza A and provides doses: Patients received 15 ml of elderberry or placebo syrup four times a day for 5 days […] during meals. The study concludes: In view of its in vitro and in vivo efficacy on influenza A and B viruses, elderberry extract offers an efficient, safe and cost-effective supplement to the present armamentarium of medications for the prophylaxis and treatment of influenza. It should be stressed that our study involved only adult influenza patients who were otherwise healthy, and did not include any high-risk patients.
I also found a study on the H1N1 virus and a resveratrol tetramer called “(+)-vitisin A,” isolated from the roots of Vitis vinifera: http://tinyurl.com/ykhlmv8 The abstract concludes that: (+)-vitisin A might be a potent anti-inflammatory agent that inhibits influenza A virus-induced RANTES production by interfering with Akt- and STAT (1)-related signal pathways. Might be. Well, I suppose a glass of red wine now and again wouldn’t hurt!
And here is a study on quercetin, mice, stressful exercise and influenza: http://tinyurl.com/yl6yejq Boy, this one really made me wonder…how can anyone come up with such a weird research idea? It was almost as weird as the one on testosterone levels during the 2008 U.S. presidential elections (just for a chuckle, see: http://tinyurl.com/yfw4pfs)
If you are not taking Velcade, it might be wise to increase your intake of green tea, see this 2005 study on EGCG and the influenza virus: http://tinyurl.com/yz26wuv
And how about tea tree oil? See this September 2009 study: http://tinyurl.com/yfmtmo7 A group of Italian researchers found tea tree oil to be effective against influenza A, subtype H1N1, at doses below the cytotoxic dose. They conclude that this essential oil should be a promising drug in the treatment of influenza virus infection. Interesting.
Well, it’s time for me to stop now. But I thought the news about elderberry was worthy of some attention. By the way, Sambucol doesn’t seem to be on the market here in Italy; earlier this afternoon I called a couple of local pharmacies and health food stores. No luck. Well, that didn’t deter me. I just ordered a couple of bottles from a UK website…to have on hand just in case…! (I know, I know, I just violated my policy of not mentioning brands on my blog…oh well! Pazienza…). Before I sign off, I would like to thank Hans who was the first to tell me about elderberry…