When mounting your defense against swine flu, you might consider elderberry, according to a new study published in the journal Phytochemistry.
In test-tube experiments, scientists found that compounds extracted from the herb attached to H1N1 particles and stopped the virus from infecting host cells.
Elderberry, rich in an inflammation-fighting antioxidant called quercetin, has long been used to decrease the duration and severity of seasonal flu.
But since the herb's flu-preventing effects have yet to be tested in humans, "it's not known how much or for how long you'd need to take elderberry for H1N1 prevention, or if it would even work," says Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., fellowship director for the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. "On the plus side, elderberry is very safe, so there's no real risk associated with taking it regularly."
In the event of a swine flu infection, elderberry may be less likely than more powerful immunity herbs to set off a "cytokine storm" (a potentially fatal phenomenon that occurs when a robust immune system overreacts to a virus and overloads the infection site with inflammatory chemicals).
"Until we know more about this flu," Low Dog says, "it's probably best to avoid potent immune stimulants such as echinacea."