Heartbreaking stories continue circulating the media about children, young adults, healthy adults, and the elderly dying from the flu, which has been dominated by the H3N2 strain this year. This epidemic is on track to kill 50,000 Americans this year. According to Bloomberg, that number is 650,000 worldwide, and pandemic flu numbers could be upwards of a million lives.
While there are a lot of factors at play in why this epidemic has been so deadly this year, the end result has left a lot of consumers turning to holistic medicine, or alternative medicine, for an answer. Stores across the country are reporting that they can’t keep elderberry on the shelves.
The flu vaccine has been all but ineffective this year, with some speculating as little as 10% being protected.
This year’s strain has also been particularly harsh and resilient, even toward otherwise healthy patients.
And, there’s the added consideration that many are forgoing the preferred prescribed antiviral, Tamiflu, because they’re unable or unwilling to pay its high cost, especially considering its questionable effectiveness against mutated strains. Such as was the case of a Texas mom who died after deeming $116 co-pay for Tamiflu was too much, according to Fox News.
At the moment, however, doctors have little other Western treatment options other than Tamiflu available to prescribe suffering patients. Bloomberg reports that consumers will see several additions in global influenza products by 2025 from Baloxavir, a flu drug being developed by Roche and Shionogi & Co. in Japan; pimodivir, a flu drug by Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen unit; and nitazoxanide, a licensed waterborne parasitic drug being studied for cross flu effectiveness.
However, this is neither here nor there since it doesn’t help people today suffering with the potentially deadly flu. Many parents, family doctors, and pediatricians are turning to elderberry.
An older CBS News looked at a study that found an elderberry extract called Sambucol could potentially shorten the duration of flu symptoms by around 3 days, which is similar to what Tamiflu touts but at a fraction of the price. Other studies purport that elderberry, an old medicinal herb, lessens the severity of flu and cold symptoms and could even stave off the flu all together.
With all the combined facets of the flu strike this year, multiple local news outlets across the country, such as WPDE,are reporting elderberry supplements are flying off the shelves as an alternative treatment for the flu.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, black elder, also called European elder, is the most often used for medicinal purposes. They do warn, though, that it’s not safe to consume unripened or raw elderberries because of a toxic compound similar to cyanide that’s only destroyed during the cooking process.