Elderberry syrup gaining popularity in the Lowcountry as natural flu remedy


Cold and flu season is here. While flu shots are widely available, there’s a growing demand for natural medicines. Elderberry syrup is making its mark in the Lowcountry. It’s becoming wildly popular in the Charleston area.

There’s a number of companies that make and sell elderberry syrup, touting it as a natural anti-viral.

Sara Gail runs Island Kombucha, a small Daniel Island business. Gail is a registered and licensed dietician. She said her elderberry syrup is so popular, she’s taking between 50 and 100 orders a day.

“This is really popular during flu season because it’s taken as a preventive measure, to prevent the flu, or to catch it early on,” Gail said. “Because studies have shown that when you take elderberry syrup within the first 48-hours of symptoms, you can reduce the symptoms and duration of the illness by 50-percent. It’s a good comparison with Tamiflu and there are actually scientific studies to back that up.”

Health experts aren’t convinced it lives up to pharmaceutical-grade anti-viral medications.

“One of our only therapies that we have that is an anti-viral is Tamiflu and Oseltamiver, which can be given and has shown to reduce symptoms as well as duration,” said Roper St. Francis Pharmacist Patrick Walker. “There have been very small pieces of literature that have shown for it (elderberry syrup) to decrease flu symptoms and potentially duration, however at Roper St. Francis, it’s not something that we will be prescribing.”

To date, the Food and Drug Administration have not approved any elderberry syrup products. Walker said because there’s no substantial evidence-based research to back its claims, clinicians are hesitant to recommend its use.

Despite the skepticism from the medical community, Gail said there’s a reason why thousands of people swear by its use.

“From what I have read and learned and what I’ve experienced, experience from all of my customers, it works,” Gail said. “I’ve had physicians, nurse practitioners send their patients to me to come get this.”

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