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Elderberry: An old medicinal herb and new flu treatment trend

Elderberry Syrup: An old medicinal herb and new flu treatment trend (Madeline Montgomery/WPDE)

An alternative way to fight the flu is gaining popularity. Elderberry syrup is flying off the shelves at local pharmacies.

It is a not-so-new flu treatment.

“It goes back, back to the Greek father of medicine, Hippocrates, as a medicinal herb,” said Jenna Dukes, a pharmacist and owner of Cherry Grove Drug.

Elderberry syrup has been hard to keep on the shelves, according to Dukes.

"Sales have been fantastic. The last shipment I got in was Tuesday, a week ago, and it sold out in twelve hours,” said Dukes.

Alexandria Cowell has been making the syrup for her family for years but the demand for her to make it for others has picked up this flu season.

“I think that the use of natural treatments is on the rise because people are really looking for a way to get back to nature, get back to basics, and 'what can I do that is going to cause the least amount of harm to my body',” said Cowell, who sells her elderberry syrup.

“It’s a natural remedy so most people think it’s safer than the Tamiflu or anything like that. If they feel those symptoms coming on, they don’t have to go sit in the doctor’s office and wait,” said Dukes.

But does it work and is it safe?

We asked two local hospitals, McLeod Health and Conway Medical Center, and they both said their doctors did not want to comment on alternative medicine treatments.

But according to a study published on the National Center for Biotechnological Information, elderberries have been proven to shorten flu symptoms.

The possible reason?

“It was found that when you boil elderberries, whether they’re fresh or dry, you got these wonderful medicinal properties that help with inflammation in the body, high amounts of Vitamin C” said Cowell.

Elderberry syrup can also include other immune boosting ingredients like chinese anise stars and ginger.

The CDC does have a known case of poisoning from elderberry juice, but those berries were not boiled like the ones in the syrup.

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