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Elderberries and elderberry syrup can be used for cold and flu prevention.

With school back in session, cold and flu season is already starting to affect people in our area. Though influenza is active throughout the entire year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says activity begins increasing in October.

Several steps can be taken to avoid becoming sick. The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first step in protecting yourself, but also suggests avoiding close contact with sick people, staying home when sick, covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, washing your hands, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, clean and disinfect surfaces and objects contaminated with germs and practicing other good health habits.

Even with these preventions in place, it is still likely you will become sick at some point during the year. Before you reach for common over-the-counter cold medicines, consider a natural approach. In a 2016 study published by the National Institutes of Health, researchers found that illness duration and intensity can be decreased by consuming elderberries.

Elderberries, a traditional remedy used for centuries, have been shown to have antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antidepressant properties. They are also loaded with antioxidants. The remedy comes in various forms but perhaps the most popular is as a liquid, usually in the form of elderberry syrup.

Elderberries have recently become popular as a flu and cold preventation. The 2016 study, which focused on economy class air travelers, provided elderberry capsules 10 days before travel and up to four or five days after travel. 325 volunteers were chosen and were required to maintain a daily diary with various ratings and symptom questions. 158 participants received the elderberry capsules and 154 were assigned placebos. The study revealed that taking elderberry would, on average, shorten the duration of illness symptoms by two days and lessen the severity of symptoms.

There are several brands available at most local drug stores and online retail sites. A quick online search reveals tons of different options and recipes. Making your own syrup is a great alternative, allowing you to create a product most palatable for you.

If you choose to use the recipes included, make sure to thoroughly cook the berries. Do not consume leaves, stems, unripe or uncooked fruit. According to WebMD, side affects of consuming these can be nausea, vomiting or severe diarrhea.

Some pediatricians say elderberry is safe for newborns, but always check with your health care provider first. Raw honey, an ingredient used in the included recipes, should not be given to infants. Honey can carry botulism and is not advices for children under the age of 1 years old.

Please consult a physician before giving your child any form of medicine, including homeopathic remedies.

Whether you are trying to prevent a cold or flu, treat at the first sign of symptoms, or using it for another health reason, elderberries can be a powerful tool.

Erica Welch is a community reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at ewelch@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4218.

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Community Reporter

Erica Welch is the special sections coordinator and a community reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at ewelch@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4218.

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