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April 2020

Clear Up Confusion About Elderberry in COVID-19 Patients

Growing concerns about the potential for cytokine storm syndrome in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients has raised questions about the safety of elderberry.

Cytokine storm syndrome – a severe overproduction of immune cells that can lead to life-threatening lung inflammation – may be a complication of COVID-19 in some patients. This has raised questions about the safety of elderberry, since elderberry may have a pro-cytokine effect. A very small study that used blood from healthy donors shows that elderberry extract increases the production of inflammatory cytokines in vitro. But not all research agrees. Other research suggests that elderberry might actually have an anti-cytokine effect. Furthermore, there is NO evidence that elderberry induces cytokine storm syndrome in humans. Tell your patients that there’s no strong evidence that elderberry causes cytokine storm syndrome.

While this is reassuring, it’s also important to remind patients that there is NO evidence that elderberry can help treat or prevent COVID-19. Although elderberry is commonly taken for colds and the flu, and there’s some evidence it might help for these conditions, elderberry has NOT been evaluated for treating or preventing COVID-19.

Overall, there is no strong evidence that elderberry can cause cytokine storm syndrome, but there’s also no good evidence that it can improve symptoms or prevent COVID-19. Continue reminding patients that the best way to prevent COVID-19 is through proper hand hygiene, using disinfectant sprays or wipes to clean surfaces, etc.

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The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright © 2020 Natural Medicines Inc. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited. Natural Medicines is the leading provider of high-quality, evidence-based, clinically-relevant information on natural medicine, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, minerals, functional foods, diets, complementary practices, CAM modalities, exercises and medical conditions. Monograph sections include interactions with herbs, drugs, foods and labs, contraindications, depletions, dosing, toxicology, adverse effects, pregnancy and lactation data, synonyms, safety and effectiveness.