Watch CBS News

New Study Suggests Elderberry Is Ineffective As Flu Remedy

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- From Chicken Soup, to Vitamin C, to Garlic there are a host of so called home remedies people swear by when they feel lousy.

But one popular remedy is being called into question when it comes to its use by flu patients.

A new study – the largest ever done on the topic – coming out of The Cleveland Clinic raises questions about flu patients using Black Elderberry to treat the virus.

The study was led by Dr. Michael Macknin and involved Elderberry used by patients five and over who arrived in the Emergency Room with the flu.

"There were several previous studies that suggested it may decrease the severity and duration by up to four days," says Dr. Macknin.

So the doctors offered all patients traditional flu medications like Tamiflu as well as Elderberry Extract, or a placebo.

Dr. Macknin says the bottom line on Elderberrry, "Unfortunately, we didn't show that it helped at all."

In fact he says, "It actually didn't make any difference at all, compared to placebo when you took all the patients who took elderberry and all the patients who took the placebo medication, their illnesses lasted almost the identical length of time."

But here's the concerning part of the Cleveland Clinic study:

Among those patients who declined the Tamiflu or one of the other medications Dr. Macknin says, "Elderberry actually seemed to make things worse than placebo. The elderberry patient took two days longer to get better than the placebo patients."

This is not what Dr. Macknin and his colleagues expected. "We were, I don't want to say shocked, but we were very surprised that we didn't show any beneficial effect of the elderberry whatsoever. I think this other finding of possible detrimental effects of the elderberry need to be looked into further."

In the meantime he says the best solution is to not get the flu in the first place and that means getting your flu shot. "Because we know for sure that helps, and there are very, very few side effects that are of any significance and the beneficial effects are enormous."

Dr. Macknin says one good thing coming out of the COVID-19 crisis is that all the mitigation efforts (masking, social distancing, washing hands) have basically shut down the flu season.

Again, the Cleveland Clinic study on Elderberry Extract involved only patients with active flu cases and Dr. Macknin says it does not debunk other claims people have that regular use of Elderberry wards off things like colds and other maladies.

That would be fodder for another study.


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.