It is widely known that if you frequently travel by air, you are at increased risk of catching a cold or flu. That’s why Australian researchers decided to feature air travelers in their 2015 study to determine if elderberry extract could reduce occurrence and severity of the common cold. According to lead researcher Evelin Tiralongo, PhD, they found that “elderberry reduces the duration and severity of the cold, but not the rate of cold occurrence.”
This was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. The 312 air travelers featured in the study flew between Australia and another destination (minimum of 7 hour flight with a stopover of no more than 12 hours) where they stayed at least four days. Cold episodes, duration and symptoms were tracked via surveys completed before, during, and after travel. The intervention group took two or three 300 mg capsules of an 18:1 elderberry extract with minimum anthocyanin concentration of 3.2% daily, and the other group took placebo. The placebo group had a significantly greater number of cold episodes and also higher symptom scores compared to the elderberry group.
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra L) has been used medicinally for hundreds of years. This recent study coincides with previous studies showing that elderberry can reduce symptoms and shorten the duration of the cold and flu. Elderberry is a known antioxidant that contains potent anthocyanins and other polyphenols. Elderberry extract has previously been demonstrated to inhibit the growth of influenza A and B viruses and bacteria associated with upper respiratory tract infections. The anthocyanins also reduce inflammation. Given these findings, perhaps frequent fliers should pack some elderberry supplements before boarding their next plane.
Tiralongo E, Wee S, Lea RA. Does elderberry benefit intercontinental air travellers? Presented at the 21st Annual International Integrative Medicine Conference in Melbourne; July 17-19, 2015.

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