October 31, 2004, Updated September 13, 2012

Americans are nervously bracing for the expected flu vaccine shortage as health experts predict people will begin feeling the effects of the flu by next month. But as the hundreds of thousands of Americans who use Israel’s elderberry extract Sambucol will tell you, vaccines aren’t the only answer to the flu’s debilitating symptoms.

Nicknamed ‘nature’s flu fighter’, Sambucol, which is produced by Jerusalem company Razei Bar, has been clinically proven to eliminate flu symptoms within one to two days. A standardized extract, the 100% natural Sambucol contains a potent antiviral compound, AntiVirin as well as a high amount of three flavonoids, naturally occurring plant antioxidants.

Developed by world renowned Israeli virologist Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu, SAMBUCOL is derived from the black elder tree, Sambucus nigra L. Beginning in the 1970s, Mumcuoglu began research that led to her discovery of the key active ingredient in elderberry.

“I became interested in the natural healing elements of elderberry when I did by PHD on it in Switzerland,” Mumcuoglu told ISRAEL21c. “I isolated the active substances from the elderberry and tested them against the flu virus, and found them to be effective. After finishing my studies, I came back to Israel and continued to work on research for another 10 years or so at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem.”

According to Mumcuoglu, the black elderberry has been known since the 5th century BCE and was mentioned in the writings of Hippocrates, Dioscurides and Plinius. It can be found in every pharmacopoeia. Elderberry wine was traditionally used for influenza and the ill effects of the chills, and the juice of the black elderberry has historically been an invaluable remedy.

After assessing its effectiveness against the flu during her research, which was conducted in collaboration with the Department of Virology, Hebrew University School of Medicine, Mumcuoglu decided to commercialize an elderberry supplement she named Sambucol, and founded Razei bar in 1992. Mumcuoglu was able to test her products on actual patients during a flu epidemic in souther Israel in the winter of 1992-93. The results were very encouraging. Within 24 hours, 20% of those patients taking Sambucol had dramatic improvements in symptoms like fever, muscle aches and pains and coughing. By the second day, 73% were improved and by day three, 90%. In the untreated group, only 16% felt better after two days. The majority of that group took almost a week to begin feeling better.

Another double-blind placebo-controlled clinical study was conducted using Sambucol during an outbreak of influenza B Panama. A significant improvement of the symptoms, including fever, was seen in 93.3% of the cases in the Sambucol treated group within 2 days. A complete cure was achieved within 2 to 3 days in nearly 90% of the Sambucol treated group and within at least 6 days in the placebo group.

And most recently, in a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled study conducted in Norway, Sambucol was shown to significantly reduce the duration of the flu by approximately four days. The use of rescue medication (pain relievers, etc.) was significantly less in the group receiving Sambucol than in the placebo group.

The study concluded that Sambucol stimulates the healthy immune system by increasing production of inflammatory cytokines. Cytokine production was measured using monocytes derived from the blood of 12 healthy volunteers, which were incubated with four different Sambucol products: Sambucol Black Elderberry Extract, Sambucol Black Elderberry Syrup, Sambucol Immune System, and Sambucol for Kids.

Mumcuoglo refused to divulge the exact makeup of Sambucol and what makes it different from other elderberry extracts, but stressed that Sambucol stands alone among elderberry extracts.

“I was the first to introduce the elderberry in the U.S., and now there are about 70 copycats. But to our credit, we still have about 80% of the market. We have a very special recipe. It’s very easy to destroy the active element, that’s most of those other products aren’t effective,” she said.

Even though the product is produced and manufactured in Israel, the elderberries are imported from Europe, as the Middle East does not offer the proper climate for growing them.

Sambucol costs $12 for 30 lozenges, and it can be found in just about any health food store throughout the U.S. It’s distributed by Nature’s Way Products. Besides the U.S., Sambucol is currently sold in Canada, United Kingdom, Holland, Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Israel, South Korea, Singapore and New Zealand.

“I think that Sambucol has a great role to play – it really can save lives. To my knowledge, it’s the only product that can cut the flu in half, before complications have a chance of setting in. At least 30,000 deaths are reported due to flu complications every year in the US.,” Mumcuoglo said.

“I’m very concerned over what is going to happen there. Half the population that has been receiving the vaccine will not get it this year, and a lot of them will get sick, transfer the flu to their families and friends. It’s important to pass the message on – You need to stem the flu immediately, as soon as your experience a symptom.”

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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