Elderberry just the remedy for colds and flu

Dr Evelin Tiralongo and Dr Shirley Wee

The common elderberry could be just the remedy for international travellers susceptible tocolds and bugs, according to researchers from the Griffith Health Institute.

The long-haul flight typically takes its toll on the body, not least when more than one timezone is factored into the travel equation. And while jetlag remains the disorder mostinstantly associated with long-distance airtime, holiday-makers are often as likely to bringhome a cold as a souvenir.A study by Dr Evelin Tiralongo and Dr Shirley Wee from theInstitute’s Molecular Basis of Disease research group, is testing 280 travelling participantsto see whether taking elderberry capsules will make them less likely to suffer a respiratoryillness after a long-haul flight.

Half of the participants will take standardised elderberry capsules during their travelperiod, while the other half will take placebo capsules.

“Elderberry fills the folk remedies of three continents and formed the bedrock for doctors’prescriptions since Hippocrates first claimed the Elder tree as his personal ‘medicinechest,’” says Dr Tiralongo.

“The berry’s benefits are mainly preventative, as it contains powerful antioxidants(anthocyanins and flavonoids) and vitamins. We expect that trial participants who willtake Elderberry will have a lower incidence of cold and flu symptoms than thoseparticipants who are taking placebo capsules.”

Seeking participants

The trial, which is still seeking participants, follows on from the research team’s 2010 trialof Echinacea which proved the benefits of the herbal medicine in reducing the incidence
of respiratory symptoms for international airline passengers.

The Echinacea research was backed by a large clinical trial led by Cardiff Universitywhere researchers also identified preventative effects of Echinacea.

“Given that more than half of the population already uses herbal medicines, vitamins andminerals, we need to establish more evidence for those medicines,” says Dr Tiralongo.
“Intercontinental air travel can be stressful, adding extra strain on a passenger’s physicaland psychological health. Planes are suitable for conducting cold and flu trials as air travelcan be stressful with hundreds of travellers from all over the world locked in a pressurised,dry air cabin for a long time. This environment places passengers at higher risk ofcatching something.”

The elderberry trial is expected to continue through to early 2014.Interested trail participants need to be healthy, aged 18 or over, travelling on a minimumof a seven hour flight in economy class and staying for a minimum of four days overseas.

The elderberry trial is based at Griffith University’s new Griffith Health Centre, a$150m primary healthcare facility which is opening its doors to the community this week.
With expanded clinical services and a wealth of new student learning opportunities, thefacility — set to be officially opened on Friday July 19 by Her Excellency TheHonourable Quentin Bryce AC CVO — will operate alongside the new Gold CoastUniversity Hospital and focus on Chronic Disease Management and Sports Health.Griffith University is launching a suite of initiatives under its three-year ‘New Griffith2013-2016’ program, signifying an intensive period of change and innovation.

For more information on ‘New Griffith’ visit http://www.griffith.edu.au/newgriffith