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The 2200-year-old newcomer

Cold and flu season is in full swing and the last time I found myself at the pharmacy, I couldn’t help but notice an entire shelf dedicated to all things elderberry: syrups, tablets, lozenges, gummies, countless products with dark berries on the packaging. Which got me wondering… when did the elderberry show up? One minute we were all reaching for Theraflu and popping Halls when we got sick, and then suddenly elderberry had taken over.

At Natural Products Expo West 2017, 44 elderberry products were introduced. By 2019 the new product introductions fell to 24, but that’s still an impressive number of products. Apparently, elderberry is not at all new. According to an Outside Magazine article, elderberry showed up in the writings of Hippocrates.

For those that have escaped the elderberry craze, the fruit is alleged to prevent illness and shorten the duration on colds and flus – and research seems to back this up. Healthline says, “a study of 312 air travelers taking capsules containing 300 mg of elderberry extract three times per day found that those who got sick experienced a shorter duration of illness and less severe symptoms.” Another study of “60 people with influenza found that those who took 15 ml of elderberry syrup four times per day showed symptom improvement in two to four days, while the control group took seven to eight days to improve.” And yet another study of “64 people found that taking 175 mg elderberry extract lozenges for two days resulted in significant improvement in flu symptoms, including fever, headache, muscle aches and nasal congestion, after just 24 hours.”

So, how does the elderberry work? Not clear. The abovementioned Outside article featured an interview with the former head of medical plants research at the University of San Diego, who explained, “laboratory studies show that elderberry shifts the activity of certain cytokines, the body’s signaling molecules for the immune system to ramp up and down, which may explain how the plant can cause a boost to the body’s natural defenses.”

Will elderberry-everything still be on drugstore shelves in 20 years, or will it be replaced with the next big thing? If so, what will it be? Astragalus? Olive leaf? Oregano? In the coming weeks, we’ll take a closer look at the immune trends that cropped up at Expo West 2019, as well as the newcomers at Expo West 2020.

Headed to Expo West eager to learn about other superfoods and immunity-boosting innovation? Order your copy of the NEXT Trend Guidebook to locate brands formulating for the immunity trend, organized by booth number with corresponding categories. Plus, don’t miss the NEXT team live in action at the show, Thursday, March 5th, 2-3pm, during Trends Exploration: How to Identify the NEXT Big Thing in Natural.