Elderberry and COVID-19 – What are the Facts?

Elderberry and COVID-19 – What are the Facts?

Elderberry and COVID-19 – What are the Facts?

In times of trial, everyone is looking for information, and it can be hard to determine what is legitimate versus what is not.  We have noticed that there has been some inaccurate information reported regarding Elderberry and the potential effects of use with COVID-19.  Simply put, there is no valid correlation between Elderberry and a “cytokine storm” (correctly known as Cytokine Release Syndrome, or CRS).

Summary:

  • There are no reported cases or associations of elderberry and cytokine storm.
  • The only data on elderberry and elevated cytokines is from a study using only healthy volunteers1, meaning all we know is that as a preventive measure, it may work partly in this manner.
  • The association with elderberry and cytokine storm is implausible;  elderberry is not likely to be able to cause cytokine storm whether used for prevention or infection, or during infection.

What are Cytokines and what do they do?

Cytokines are a group of proteins made by the immune system that act as chemical messengers. There are different types of cytokines, including chemokines, interferons, interleukins, lymphokines and tumor necrosis factor. Essentially, they are cell signaling molecules that aid cell to cell communication in immune responses and stimulate the movement of cells towards sites of inflammation, infection and trauma. Cytokines are involved in many aspects of inflammation and immunity. 2,3

A cytokine storm (CRS) is an excessive immune response which may occur in late stage severe illness, sepsis, or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).  By the time a cytokine storm may be experienced in a respiratory distress situation, a person would most likely be in a significantly compromised state and may already be in the ICU on lifesaving respiration equipment with care being managed by medical professionals. *4

Elderberry and Immune System Support*

Elderberry has a long history of use for immune support*. Both the flowers and berries have a long tradition of both culinary and folk medicinal uses going back thousands of years.  As an herb it works in a variety of ways in the body. Herbs are thought in general to be supporters of physiology, rather than overt stimulants.*  

The role of elderberry and cytokines seems to stem from a study done using our product Sambucol® , where the study suggested that elderberry supported cytokine production in healthy individuals, that was beneficial to the process being studied 1 ibid.  It did not suggest that elderberry would cause a cytokine storm in situations where the immune system is taxed by an underlying condition.  Other studies have shown that elderberry did not stimulate cytokine production. 5 (remember, there are MANY kinds of cytokines).

What does this mean?

  • There are no  reported cases or associations of elderberry and cytokine storm.
  • The only data on elderberry and elevated cytokines is from a study using only healthy volunteers1, meaning all we know is that as a preventive measure, it may work partly in this manner.
  • The association with elderberry and cytokine storm is implausible;  elderberry is not likely to be able to cause cytokine storm whether used for prevention or infection, or during infection.

This article is not intended for the purpose of providing medical advice. All information, content, and material found in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider. 

 REFERENCES:

  1. Barak V, Halperin T, and Kalickman I. The effect of Sambucol, a black Elderberry-based, natural product, on the production of human cytokines: I. inflammatory cytokines. European Cytokine Network 12, no. 2 (June 2001): 290–96.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11399518  
  2. Herbal Medicine and Cytokine Storm in Respiratory InfectionHerbal Medicines and Cytokine Storm in respiratory infection. Paul Bergner Director, North American Institute of Medical Herbalism, http://naimh.com
  3. What Are Cytokines? - Definition, Types & Function https://study.com/academy/lesson/what-are-cytokines-definition-types-function.html
  4. Tisoncik JR, Korth MJ, Simmons CP, Farrar J, Martin TR, & Katze MG.  Into the eye of the cytokine storm.  Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 2012 Mar 76(1): 16-32. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3294426/   
  5. Kirichenko TV, Sobenin IA, Nikolic D, Rizzo M, and Orekhov AN. Anti-cytokine therapy for prevention of atherosclerosis. Phytomedicine: International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology 23, no. 11 (October 15, 2016): 1198–1210. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phymed.2015.12.002

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