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Elderberry, Corona-virus, and the Cytokine Response

The Corona-virus, aka covid-19, or 'Rona as I've been calling it, is a SARS (Sudden Acute Respiratory System) virus. It is not like a flu at all and because it is respiratory you can expect that fever and difficulty breathing are the main symptoms.


Elderberry - Sambucus nigra - in the family Adoxaceae promotes a healthy immune system and when taken regularly can boost our immune response. It does this by stimulating a cytokine "storm".

The term "cytokine" is derived from a combination of two Greek words - "cyto" meaning cell and "kinos" meaning movement. Cytokines are cell signalling molecules that aid cell to cell communication in immune responses and stimulate the movement of cells towards sites of inflammation, infection and trauma.

With Corona-virus the site of inflammation is your respiratory system, and the cytokine response happens in the lungs, in some cases, causing further aggravation, even scarring and damage. It is fair to note that this may not be the case for everyone and some will be able to consume elderberry and have no respiratory aggravation at all. As an herbalist it is important we communicate all potential side effects, especially harmful ones. Given the popularity of elderberry, it is most ethical to warn those who may be harmed. Especially if asthma, lung scarring (like with COPD), or other bronchial issues (like covid-19) are present.


If you believe you have corona-virus, self quarantine and contact your doctor, nearest urgent care or emergency room right away regarding a test.


If you are trying to boost your immunity for cold and allergy season and are concerned elderberry is not the right thing at this time you can try, vitamin C rich, rose hips or moringa leaf tea


If you are struggling with cold and allergies try Mullein tea to soothe respiratory irritation, it works as an expectorant, getting rid of mucus, which is especially helpful when bronchial inflammation can leave us vulnerable to other infections.


Please remember that stress and anxiety can weaken our immunity as well. Make it a point to meditate and relax. Drink herbs meant to sooth - chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, are all really great examples. You can also try CBD, (Cannabidiol), which is a natural compound found in cannabis and hemp. It does not cause a "high" like THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), rather it promotes relaxation and has a strong anti anxiety effect.


Above all remember to self care and limit your exposure to corona-virus. Stay home as much as possible and only go out for emergencies or to gather up groceries. Be well and well informed! Tell us how you are filling your time during this quarantine?


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