Elderberry has been used as a traditional medicine for centuries. When consumed raw, or prepared in the form of a syrup or tea, it’s a fairly effective treatment for soothing respiratory ailments and symptoms of cold and flu.
Nowadays, elderberry products are a staple of the health supplement market. However, there has been some concern in recent years that consuming elderberry supplements in high enough doses may trigger something called a cytokine storm.
What Experts Say About Elderberry and Cytokine Storms – What is a Cytokine Storm?
Elderberries contain natural compounds called anthocyanins. These flavonoids are known for their antioxidant properties and are the chief ingredient that makes elderberry so desirable as a natural remedy. These same compounds can also boost the immune system, helping cold and flu sufferers recover more quickly. Generally speaking, this is good news. However, there’s been some recent concern that these immune-boosting properties can have adverse effects.
If the body’s immune system goes into overdrive, individuals can suffer something called a cytokine storm. The main hallmark of a cytokine storm is an excessive inflammatory response. If an individual is already suffering from severe respiratory disease, this inflammation can compromise the airways and make breathing more difficult. In the worst cases, this can lead to suffocation and death.
Are Elderberry Supplements Safe?
Although many elderberry supplements claim to boost the immune system, the effect on the body’s natural processes is fairly mild. Rather than aggressively stimulating the immune system, elderberry serves to balance out natural responses and provide support when needed.
As such, there’s little evidence to show that elderberry supplements run the risk of triggering a cytokine storm reaction. In fact, most elderberry supplements deliver anti-inflammatory effects which can soothe the symptoms of cold and flu viruses.
The best anti-inflammatory results are seen when consuming elderberry in its natural form. This means you’ll need to consume elderberries raw, or alternatively use the fruit and flowers of the plant to produce a tea or juice. While most supplements are unlikely to cause any adverse reactions, it’s worth investigating additional ingredients that may be included in the average lozenge or gummy. For example, supplements containing high concentrations of sugar may counteract the positive effects of elderberry anthocyanins and instead lead to unwanted inflammation.