Elderberry extracts may protect air travelers from colds and flu

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC), up to 20% of all travelers experience respiratory infections that require them to seek medical care. Image © iStockPhoto / 06photo
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC), up to 20% of all travelers experience respiratory infections that require them to seek medical care. Image © iStockPhoto / 06photo

Related tags Common cold

Supplementation with a standardized elderberry extract may reduce the duration and symptoms of the common cold for air travelers, report scientists from Griffith University in Australia.

Air travel is a challenging and demanding experience and studies have shown that long-distance flights can result in fatigue, immune system impairment, and increased stress, putting passengers at a potential risk of respiratory infections.

A new study published in Nutrients​ indicates that taking 600–900mg per day of a standardized extract of elderberry (Sambucus nigra​ L.) before, and after travel may shorten the duration of illness if​ a traveler contracted the cold, and the symptoms were less severe, compared with people in the placebo group of the study.


The extract used in the research is produced by the Italian company, Iprona AG, using their proprietary membrane ultrafiltration enrichment process. The elderberry extract is standardized to optimize its concentration of anthocyanins and active compounds in the original fruit matrix. Iprona markets the ingredient under the BerryPharma brand. Iprona AG funded the study.

“The high potency of the extract used in these studies is the result of a very unique European elderberry variety, the Haschberg variety, and a proprietary extraction method,”​ explained Anthony Jacobs, Technical Director of BerryPharma.

Study details

Researchers led by Evelin Tiralongo recruited of 312 economy class passengers travelling from Australia to an overseas destination to participate in their randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Participants were randomly assigned to receive either placebo or 600 mg per day of the elderberry supplement from 10 days before the flight until 2 days before the flight, and then 900 mg per day from one day before the flight to four days after.

Results showed that more colds occurred in the placebo group compared to the elderberry group (17 episodes vs 12 episodes, respectively) but this difference did not reach statistical significance.

Significant differences between the groups were achieved when the researchers looked at both the duration and severity of cold symptoms. Colds for participants in the placebo group had a collective duration of 117 days compared with 57 days in the elderberry group. The average symptom score over these days was 583 for the placebo group, compared with 247 in the elderberry group.

“This supports the results from, previous limited research conducted with two other elderberry products, and shows for the first time that elderberry may be effective for decreasing respiratory symptoms during travel on long-haul flights,” ​wrote the researchers.

elderberry © iStockPhoto monica-photo
Image © iStockPhoto / monica-photo

“The slight effect of elderberry on physical health could be due to its reported antioxidant properties,” ​they added. “Antioxidant polyphenols are present in elderberries, bioavailable and can increase serum antioxidant capacity. In a recent randomi[z]ed clinical trial it was shown that vitamin C supplementation improved physical activity levels in a population with adequate-to-low vitamin C status. The authors related this effect to vitamin C’s antioxidant properties since oxidative stress is related to fatigue [​Johnston et al. Nutrients​, 2014, 6, 2572–2583].”
“Based on these results it seems worthwhile to undertake more clinical research with high quality elderberry preparations to better understand beneficial health implications of this nutritional traditional medicine,”​ they concluded.

Source: Nutrients
2016, 8​(4), 182; doi:10.3390/nu8040182
“Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial”
Authors: E. Tiralongo,  S.S. Wee, R.A. Lea 

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