Eating elderberries can help fight against influenza infection, reports a new study. The findings of the study are published in the Journal of Functional Foods.
Although elderberry's flu-fighting properties have long been observed, the group performed a comprehensive examination of the mechanism by which phytochemicals, compounds that positively affect health, from elderberries combat influenza infections.
"What our study has shown is that the common elderberry has a potent direct antiviral effect against the flu virus. It inhibits the early stages of infection by blocking key viral proteins responsible for both the viral attachment and entry into the host cells," said Dr. Golnoosh Torabian.
The phytochemicals from the elderberry juice were shown to be effective at stopping the virus infecting the cells, however to the surprise of the researchers they were even more effective at inhibiting viral propagation at later stages of the influenza cycle when the cells had already been infected with the virus.
"This observation was quite surprising and rather significant because blocking the viral cycle at several stages has a higher chance of inhibiting the viral infection," explained Dr. Peter Valtchev.
"In addition to that, we identified that the elderberry solution also stimulated the cells to release certain cytokines, which are chemical messengers that the immune system uses for communication between different cell types to coordinate a more efficient response against the invading pathogen," said Centre Director, Professor Fariba Deghani.
The team also found that the elderberry's antiviral activity can be attributed to its anthocyanidin compounds phytonutrients responsible for giving the fruit its vivid purple coloring.
Otherwise known as Sambucus nigra, the elderberry is a small, antioxidant-rich fruit common to Europe and North America that is still commonly consumed as a jam or wine.
The influenza virus is one of the leading causes of mortality worldwide, affecting nearly ten percent of the world population and contributing to one million deaths annually.