Sydney University Pulls Research Claiming Elderberries Can Fight Flu

Update: Sydney University has pulled research claiming that compounds in elderberries can fight flu infection.

Following questioning from The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney University has pulled research claiming that elderberries can help to fight the flu virus.

While the university initially stood by the claim, they eventually conceded that there was no evidence to support it.

The study was funded in part by PharmaCare, which sells elderberry-based products that are advertised as products to fight flu, including cold and flu liquid Sambucol.

The name of the company was not included -- at PharmaCare's request -- in any of the press releases distributed about the research.

The power of elderberries to battle flu has been previously suggested, with  studies finding they can reduce the intensity and duration of the flu.

However, this study shows for the first time how the compounds in elderberries protect cells from flu (or influenza viruses) at every stage of infection.

Source: Getty.

Using a new extraction technique that avoided damaging the important phytochemicals in the elderberries, researchers found the fruit can boost our immune response as well as stop the replication of the virus in our bodies.

Researcher Golnoosh Torabian told 10 daily that a compound in elderberry serum changes the function of the proteins on the surface of flu cells, meaning that they can no longer invade human cells.

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Once the flu virus successfully raids a human cell, elderberry serum also stops the mechanism that allows them to leave, meaning the disease can't replicate as effectively and the sickness doesn't escalate.

However, this research is preliminary and was only conducted in cells -- it has not been demonstrated in living organisms yet.

While Torabian said vaccines are more effective at preventing people succumbing to flu, elderberries should have a complimentary role in disease management.

The researchers found these effects were shown with multiple strains of the influenza virus, which indicates elderberries could play an important role in battling the flu as it mutates with new seasons.

"We have to generate new types of vaccines and drugs every year to fight new strains of the virus but elderberry can fight different strains," Torabian said.