Sambucol, A Snake Oil By Any Other Name

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Recently, Sambucol was brought up as a miracle flu cure by an alt med proponent and anti-vaxxer. So, I thought I’d cover it.

Let’s look at the claims made about Sambucol.
Influenza
Medline Plus gives elderberry a grade of “B,” meaning there is “Good scientific evidence,” for its use as a flu fighter. A study in Norway found that research subjects who drank elderberry juice recovered from influenza symptoms in about two days, significantly faster than a control group that took about six days to get over the flu.
This study in Norway is the only study I can find on the subject, and it’s small…very small. 60 patients were treated, half with Sambucol and half with placebo. The difference wasn’t statistically relevant. 91% got better with placebo. 93% got better with Sambucol. That equates to ONE patient in difference. There’s no significance in this study and no better study has been performed.
Cholesterol and Heart Disease
A study cited in the “EJCN” journal revisited an older study into the effects of elderberry juice on cholesterol. The older study found that elderberry juice resulted in a significant decrease in “bad” cholesterol and an increase in “good” cholesterol, which would make it beneficial for heart health. The newer study did not show significant results, but researchers suggested that using a higher dose of elderberry might authenticate the original study.

Yet another study showing no statistical significance. There are, as usual, no good studies that show any efficacy here.
Immune System
Elderberry may give your immune system a beneficial boost. The website of Dr. Ray Sahelian, an expert on supplements, notes that elderberry has long been used as food, and is an excellent source of vitamins A, B, and C. It contains significant amount of antocyanins, which not only give fruit its color, but are powerful antioxidants that can stimulate the immune system and perhaps have tumor-fighting properties.
Boosting and stimulating the immune system are buzz words. Medically, they don’t actually mean anything. This is a phrase to add benefits where none exist. See science based medicine for more information.

This, like all other fruit juice remedies, are a scam. They’re designed to make money, not cure anything. They make very sure that they suggest benefits, rather than make blatant claims. More information can be found here.

I hope this quick breakdown helped to enlighten and educate. Thank you.

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

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