Traveling by air? Elderberry protects you from travel stress while boosting your immune system response
By Michelle Simmons // Jan 13, 2019

Planning on traveling by air soon? You may want to consider taking elderberry (Sambucus nigra) supplements before you travel. A study published in the journal Nutrients revealed that supplementation with elderberry extract can help reduce duration and symptoms of the common cold in air travelers.


Traveling by air makes you vulnerable to stress and contracting or spreading communicable diseases, including the common cold. As elderberries have long been used as a remedy for colds and influenza infections, researchers at Griffith University and the Queensland University of Technology in Australia examined whether elderberry extract could help prevent or improve respiratory symptoms and the mental health of people traveling by air. (Related: Want to avoid the flu epidemic? Here's how to stay healthy with elderberry.)

For the study, they recruited 312 economy class passengers traveling from Australia to an overseas destination. They randomly divided the participants into two groups: a treatment group and a control group. Participants in the treatment group received elderberry extract, while those in the control group received a placebo. They consumed the elderberry extract or the placebo for a total of 15 days, starting 10 days before their flight until five days after arriving at their destination. The participants also answered surveys containing questions on their cold episodes, symptoms, and duration, quality of life, and stress levels at baseline, two days before travel, and four to five days after travel.

The results of the study revealed that participants who took the elderberry extract had fewer cold episodes than those who took the placebo. The elderberry treatment group also had a significantly shorter duration of cold episode days and experienced fewer cold symptoms prior to travel compared to those who took the placebo.

With these findings, the researchers concluded that supplementing with elderberry extract may reduce the duration of a cold and improve its symptoms.

More on elderberry and its other potential health benefits

Elderberry is a plant native to Europe, but is widely grown in many countries. Its berries are black or blue-black in color and need to be cooked to be eaten, while its flowers -- called elderflowers -- are small white- or cream-colored flowers and can be eaten raw or cooked. The various parts of the elderberry tree have been used for culinary purposes. The berries can be cooked and used to make juice, jams, chutneys, pies and elderberry wine. The flowers can be eaten fresh in salads or boiled to make a sweet syrup or infused to tea. Elderberry also has many medicinal uses. Here are some of the potential health benefits of elderberry:

  • It is rich in nutrients: Elderberries are rich in antioxidants and low in calories. They also provide carbohydrates and protein. They are also loaded with vitamin C, dietary fiber, and anthocyanins. Elderberries are also a good source of phenolic acids and flavonols.
  • It is good for your heart: Studies have shown that elderberry may have positive effects on heart and blood vessel health. It has been shown to reduce cholesterol, uric acid, and even blood sugar levels.
  • It helps fight cancer: Test tube studies have found that elderberry has some cancer-fighting properties.
  • It prevents bacterial growth: It has been shown to prevent the growth of bacteria like Helicobacter pylori.
  • It strengthens the immune system: In animal studies, it has been shown to enhance the immune system of rats by increasing white blood cell count.
  • It offers ultraviolet (UV) protection: It may have some protective effect against UV radiation, according to research.

Read more studies on natural treatments for colds like elderberry by visiting

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