Elderberry fills the folk remedies of three continents and formed the bedrock for doctor’s prescriptions since Hippocrates first acclaimed the Elder tree as his personal “medicine chest”.
The berry’s benefits are mainly preventative, as it contains powerful antioxidants (anthocyanins and flavonoids) and Vitamins. Now a team of Griffith Health Institute researchers are putting Elderberry’s claim to protect against colds and flu under the microscope.
Clinical testing for natural remedies
Dr Evelin Tiralongo from the Molecular Basis of Disease research group and Dr Shirley Wee, Clinical Research Fellow from the School of Pharmacy, will soon begin a clinical trial of Elderberry lozenges in preventing upper respiratory symptoms in air-travellers.
They are testing the product of a European company called BerryParma, who specialise in natural preventative remedies.
This trial will follow their 2010 research which proved standardised Echinacea tablets taken before and during long-haul air travel reduce the incidence of respiratory symptoms for international airline passengers.
The Echinacea research was repeated by a huge study lead by Cardiff University which endorsed and referenced the Griffith results.
Folk cures and old wives tales
Dr Wee put the pair’s rationale for their research down to putting an evidence base under folk medicines and old wives tales.
“There are some great traditional medicines that have been passed down through families or communities which just don’t have any science behind them, there’s also a lot of misinformation which could be dismissed through a scientific approach,” she said.
“Aeroplanes are good places to conduct cold and flu trials as air travel can be stressful and the environment basically ensures you’re bound to catch something; you’ve hundreds of people from all over the world, locked in a pressurised, dry air cabin for a long time.”
It is hoped the Elderberry trial will begin at the start of 2013 and take 18 months.