Elderberries

The viral takeover bid

Imagine your cell as a large factory which produces tidy protein bundles according to the instructions laid down by the DNA master computer. Now along comes a virus, a sneaky, brazen, desperate little intruder. He comes right in the front door of your cell factory flashing his winning smile to the unwitting receptionist. Under the guise of selling wares, perfect for such a successful cellular business, he is led into the office of your cells managing director.

The director welcomes him initially but then the charming viral visitor takes off his coat to reveal characteristic spiky viral tendrils. The cell director reaches for the panic button to call security but it is too late. The virus overpowers the director, grabs hold of the master computer, which controls the cellular factory and inserts his own USB drive. Suddenly the entire cellular factory is directed to start producing viral DNA. The factory has been taken hostage.

The cell machines work overtime to pump out viral DNA which is then assembled into little viruses. In an instant the entire warehouse is crowded to bursting and the factory walls collapse. Viruses spill out all over the cellular community and go forth to infect other cellular factories. The immune police are alerted and converge on the area for an all-out battle. This is a viral infection and now you are ill….

Treatment of viral illness

The fact that viruses hijack our own cellular equipment to reproduce and are very adept at disguising themselves makes them incredibly hard to eradicate. In fact modern medicine has struggled to find effective treatments for many of the most common viral illnesses including the troublesome common colds and influenza.

For most of us, once the virus has made its takeover bid, it is a case of treating the symptoms and supporting the immune system till it finally clobbers the offending viral terrorists. This usually equals at least a few days in bed, a big box of tissues and a steady supply of sympathy.

Traditional knowledge meets scientific investigation

But maybe we shouldn’t be looking to the miracles of modern medicine for support in the viral battles but instead be taking a little leaf out of the history book.   As far back as 400BC, people gathered berries from black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) to make them into wine and cordials as they were purported to lengthen life and cure the common cold.  Could it be our ancestors, in the days before knowledge of viruses, knew something that we don’t?

It seems yes.

Scientific studies are showing that in fact, specific flavonoids in black elderberries appear to act as burly security guards, preventing viral cells from being able to sidle into the cellular factory. They do this by attaching to spikes that viruses use to attach to our healthy cells and gain entry. It is also thought that black elderberry may help to reinforce the cellular factory walls so even if viruses do get in and start replicating then the new viral army can’t bust down the cell walls and be released into the body to infect more healthy cells.

So what does this mean in terms of you and your achy limbs, snotty nose, dodgy tummy and cough? Well, it means that if you get in quick enough, like at the first sign of a tickle in the throat, and take some elderberry extract you may be able support your immune system to avoid the lurgies altogether. If taken while you are already down with the ills and chills, black elderberry extract may help slow down viral replication so your immune system has a chance to get on top of it more quickly.

This delicious tiny berry doesn’t only have viruses as a target; new scientific research shows that black elderberry extracts may also help subdue the usual bacteria which are responsible for seasonal throat and ear discomfort, gluggy lungs and even tummy troubles.

So alongside the arnica cream, the plasters, bandages and lavender oil in your first aid kit, make sure some high potency standardized black elderberry extract liquid sits alongside. Your cellular factories will thank you for it.

By Rachel Dawson

Nutritionist & Medical Herbalist (Hons)

Health & Herbs International

You may also be interested in the Elderberry – Fight the Flu Symptoms blog article.

Nature's Way Sambucus contains a standardised, high-potency black elderberry extract and is suitable for both children and adults. It is available for secure order from our online shop.

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