Elderberry vs Echinacea and COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

So many of you are currently messaging me asking for “Natural Immune Boosters” during this time. The biggest concern that is coming up from you, is the use of Elderberry Syrup. I am a firm believer in “staying in your lane.” Incorrect facts only add to the confusion of what we are all already experiencing. As a qualified Herbalist and a studying Naturopath/Health Professional. This is my recommendation. Please keep in mind like all of the health information I provide, it is influenced by my studies/knowledge, my own research and my personal opinion. 

COVID-19 is a NEW virus that is yet to have undergone extreme studies and research methods. Whilst it is showing some similarities to symptoms of Influenza. It is NOT the Influenza!

Because of the studies and data that are being shown on COVID-19 it can be seen that; whilst Elderberry inhibit viral replication within cells (Buhner, 2013) it can also activate the immune system by increasing inflammatory cytokine production.

Cytokine Release Syndrome (CRS), CAN BE a high risk situation and at times can be a dangerous hyper-release of inflammatory mediators by the human body.

Cytokines are secreted proteins that are naturally released by cells that have a specific effect on the interactions and communications between cells. They are our bodies’ immune system regulators and can be both anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory. The body automatically releases these proteins in response to infection. This results in the recruitment of immune system cells to the site of infection. 

It is one of the ways that the body fights off pathogens that cause illness!

Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a type of Cytokine that activates immune response during an infection. Sometimes, the body can over produce these pro-inflammatory cytokines, which can lead to other problems, such as autoimmune disorders or CRS.

This can be seen in people who are considered a higher risk!

When looking at COVID-19, a new virus that is unknown to the human body with no specific antibodies for its destruction. Our immune system automatically sends our immune cells to our Lungs (because of how COVID-19 effects the Lungs and the Respiratory system.)

If an influx of cytokines were amongst the lungs (from our body and added Elderberry) our lung tissue would cause a natural inflammatory response! Which MAY add to the already known breathing difficulties that come with Coronavirus. 

Because our immune cells do not recognise the virus. In some people, they can attack indiscriminately and recruit more immune cells to the effort. Meaning, more Cytokines would enter the lungs, only increasing inflammation. This MAY cause further damage to the Lungs, specifically in those who can be considered “high risk.” E.g. Asthma sufferers or others with respiratory complications. 

Please keep in mind that this is considered a worst case scenario AND does not mean it will occur for everyone or even the vast majority. 



 There are restrictions, side effects, consequences and symptoms in all things. When looking at any health product, it will always have a warning and disclaimer tag present. That often it can become a debate over what you (as an individual) is comfortable with. In an easier World, this can be further explained as how some people prefer Nurofen (Ibuprofen) over Panadol (Paracetemol), or Full Cream Milk over Skim. 

For me and because of the unknown around COVID-19, I lean towards products with less negative risks/possible side effects.

Coronavirus is passed onto another person often without knowledge and symptoms are currently only showing a few days later.

Whilst Elderberry can boost the immune system and is great for particular things (Influenza, common Cold/Flu), I would recommend not using it, IF actually infected by COVID-19 or having been around someone who has had it. Again, this is hard because of the nature and limited studies around COVID-19.

I would also recommend not just adding it to your diet without having used it before and not knowing your own personal and individual response to it.

Instead and only if wanting to look at immune boosters and natural additives. I recommend Echinacea which increases phagocytosis (Buhner, 2012). The phytochemicals in Echinacea stimulate the immune system to make more white blood cells (macrophages) which engulf and kill bacteria, dead viruses, and dead cells in our bodies. Echinacea also has anti-enzymatic activity against some bacteria, preventing them from infecting more cells. Echinacea also creates astringent action amongst the tissues it touches and therefore decreases a virus’s ability to infect cells. (Buhner, 2012).



 My other recommendations amongst the current craziness of COVID-19 are;

- Maintaining a healthy, unprocessed diet. Good nutrition will always support your immune system. "Food is thy medicine."

- Water

- Getting outside. Sunshine, grounding and fresh air work wonders on the body experiencing any form of stresses and agitations. 

- Taking a step back and returning to simplicity. De-stress! (If you are feeling a pull to become introverted away from others, social media etc - DO IT!)

- Rest if feeling unwell.

- Don't feed into the madness. And,

- Breathe.