Elderberries could help reduce ‘airplane’ colds

Whatever time of year you’re travelling, if you go by plane there’s a chance you could end up with more than you bargained for.

While there’s no evidence that the air conditioning systems in airplanes help to spread infections, some people find they develop cold and flu symptoms after flying, especially if they fly long haul.

This is thought to be the result of passengers spending long periods of time in close proximity to each other – so if one person has a cold or flu virus, it can soon spread throughout the cabin. Cabin pressure is thought to dry out your nasal passages, which may also make you more susceptible to catching a cold while flying.

But according to experts taking part in the International Integrative Medicine Conference in Melbourne, taking a supplement containing elderberry extract may provide some protection from so-called ‘airplane’ colds.

The researchers carried out a clinical trial involving 312 economy class passengers travelling long haul, giving elderberry supplements to some passengers and dummy pills (placebo) to others. At the end of the trial, more people in the placebo group had experienced cold symptoms – though the difference between the two groups wasn’t that great. However, the placebo group had a significantly higher number of days spent with cold symptoms as well as more severe symptoms compared with the elderberry supplement group.

So while taking an elderberry supplement may not protect you from ‘airplane’ colds completely, this evidence suggests it may reduce your symptoms and help you recover more quickly.

Next time you’re planning a holiday or a trip abroad, ask your pharmacist to recommend an elderberry supplement and start taking it before you fly (in this particular study, passengers started taking their supplements 10 days before they flew and kept taking it for four more days after they arrived at their destination).

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