Monday, September 21, 2015 by Greg White
Elderberries can help provide relief to flu-like symptoms that accompany international flights, according to researchers from Griffith University’s Menzies Health Institute Queensland (MHIQ).
Jet lag is one of the most common ill side effects of international travel. The flu and common cold spread easily in a cramped airplane cabins too, especially during the holidays. In addition, international air travel can be stressful, which takes a toll on passengers’ physiological and psychological well-being. Upper respiratory infections are quite common as well.
Fortunately, elderberries can help minimize ill side effects of international flight. The researchers presented their findings at the 21st Annual International Integrative Medicine Conference in Melbourne.
Modern science meets folk medicine
The health benefits of elderberries have been seized by folk medicine for thousands of years. They are an ample source of vitamins A, B and C. They’ve been used to treat the common cold, flu, bacterial and viral infections, and tonsillitis. Now, scientific research on the health benefits of elderberries is verifying these age-old suspicions.
The scientists conducted a double-blind placebo trial on 312 passengers traveling from Australia to a destination overseas. The passengers were given 900 milligrams of elderberry extract every day, from 10 days before their flight to 4 days after their flight ended. The capsules used in the study had been shown to be effective at combating respiratory bacteria and the influenza virus in different studies. Other passengers were given a placebo. The researchers then recorded the cold-like symptoms exhibited among passengers, and the duration of the cold-like symptoms, in a daily diary.
Elderberry alleviates jet lag symptoms in passengers
The authors of the study found that passengers who took the elderberry extract had milder cold-like symptoms than participants who took the placebo. In addition, cold-like symptoms lasted on average two days shorter than for those who took the placebo. Furthermore, the researchers found that the health of passengers who took the placebo worsened during the flight, whereas the health of passengers who took the elderberry extract was relatively stable.
“We found that most cold episodes occurred in the placebo group, but the difference between the placebo and active group was not significant. However, the placebo group had a significantly higher number of cold episode days, and the symptom score in the placebo group over these days was also significantly higher,” said Associate Professor Evelin Tiralongo, who was involved in the study.
Scientists attribute the health benefits of elderberry to its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. Nevertheless, the elderberry extract did not have a definite impact on the passengers’ mental health. All of the passengers had improved mental health throughout the process, probably because they were on vacation, Tiralongo speculated.
Many people get jet lag because international flights cause them to have unusual sleep cycles. As a result, people resort to sleeping pills that make them feel just as tired and worn out as jet lag. Although elderberries are not a sleep remedy, they are an alternative way to reduce the symptoms of jet lag without resorting to over-the-counter drugs that can make you groggy.
“Complementary medicines are used by two in three Australians, thus increasing the evidence base of these medicines should be at the forefront of our efforts. It’s often forgotten that the evidence for various herbal medicines is extract specific,” concluded the authors.