Two people with colds sneezing

It is that dreaded time of year again—cold and flu season!

Do you ever cringe at the sight of a coworker’s pile of tissues or the sound of his rattling cough, dreading that he might reach out to shake your hand? Do you let out a reluctant sigh after tucking a coughing child into bed, knowing the unavoidable odds of your own sick nights to come?

True to its name, the common cold is extremely common. An average adult gets 2 to 3 colds per year, and children get even more. Colds are the main reason children miss school and adults miss work. Colds can hit any time of year, but they tend to spread like wildfire during the winter months.

The discomforts of a sore throat, runny nose, coughing, sneezing, and headache are not things any of us wish upon ourselves. That is why we take all of the ordinary precautions: we wash our hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds; we don’t touch our face our nose with dirty hands; we wash and disinfect surfaces in our house. The common cold spreads by direct contact, so these precautions are important things to do!

But what if I were to tell you that there is something more specific you can do to avoid getting the common cold this winter? Wouldn’t it be great to know that you can stay healthy and energetic, even when surrounded by sneezing coworkers? Of course, nothing in medicine is guaranteed, but I am about to let you in on a secret that my patients, my coworkers, my family, and I have all successfully relied on to reduce our risk of getting the common cold.

So…What’s The Secret?

That secret lies in giving your immune system the specific defense it needs to fight off a cold before the virus has a chance to take over your body. The secret lies in a plant that has been used as an herbal medicine by traditional cultures for centuries. That plant is called Sambucus nigra, or black elderberry.

Black elderberry has been used for ages, and now modern research shows that it has potent antiviral activity. Black elderberry blocks the cold virus from entering the host cell and also interferes with the virus’s ability to replicate.

A 2016 study found that airline travelers who took elderberry extract contracted fewer colds and had less intense and shorter duration of symptoms if they did get sick. Two additional clinical trials have found that when people take elderberry syrup at the onset of flu symptoms, they experience less intense symptoms and a shorter duration of illness. The most effective time to take black elderberry extract is at the onset of symptoms or when exposed to others who are sick.

How Do I Choose the Best Black Elderberry Product?

You will see many varieties of black elderberry in the aisles of the health food store, but not all are equal. In my clinical experience, I have seen incredible results with a New Chapter product called Immune Take Care. The active ingredient is standardized black elderberry extract. That means that every single capsule of Immune Take Care provides the exact same amount of the active ingredient—making the product similar in quality to a pharmaceutical medication.

When Do I Take Black Elderberry?

I recommend my patients start taking Immune Take Care as soon as they start to feel that tickle in their throat or that bit of congestion in their nose. For a couple of days, it is most effective to take more than the amount recommended on the bottle. In my clinical experience, I have seen Immune Take Care halt the symptoms of a cold or flu in its tracks.

What Else Can I Do to Avoid Getting Colds?

Always remember to take basic precautions like washing hands and cleaning counters. You can also support your body defenses by eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, sleeping at least 7-8 hours a night, exercising in moderation, and managing your stress.

You can also take extra vitamin D. Our bodies make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight, but our levels drop during the darker days of winter. Researchers have found that low vitamin D might entirely explain the seasonality of the flu and that people with low levels of vitamin D are much more likely to get upper respiratory infections. You can have your vitamin D levels checked with a simple blood test or even just take an extra 1000 IU to 2000 IU per day of vitamin D through the cold and flu season.

Do I Have to Keep This a Secret?

Please don’t!

The secret of standardized black elderberry extract is one that should definitely be shared. The more people know about how to avoid the cold and flu, the better off we will all be through the winter months.

The material contained herein is for educational and informational purposes only and may not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended to replace medical advice offered by physicians. Please refer to the full text of the Legal Disclaimer on”


Cannell JJ, Zasloff M, Garland CF, Scragg R, Giovannucci E. On the epidemiology of influenza. Virol J. 2008;529.

Cannell JJ, Vieth R, Umhau JC, et al. Epidemic influenza and vitamin D. Epidemiol Infect. 2006;134(6):1129-1140.

Tiralongo E, Wee SS, Lea RA. Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Nutrients. 2016;8(4):182.

Zakay-Rones Z, Varsano N, Zlotnik M, et al. Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama. J Altern Complement Med. 1995;1(4):361-369.

Zakay-Rones Z, Thom E, Wollan T, Wadstein J. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. J Int Med Res. 2004;32(2):132-140.

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About The Care Group: We promote optimal wellness by providing an individualized, functional medicine approach to address root causes rather than simply treating symptoms. We help patients with a wide range of issues including autoimmune/ inflammatory disease, digestive disorders, hormone imbalances, and mood disorders. To learn more about our practice, click here.

About the Author: Dr. Gerard Guillory, MD is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and has published two books on Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). In 1985, he opened The Care Group, PC. Today, his clinic is a Primary Care facility that is a hybrid of functional and traditional medicine treating patients with digestive disorders, autoimmune disease, and other conditions. You can learn more about Dr. Guillory here.