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VERIFY: Yes, you can continue taking elderberry during coronavirus pandemic

Some are warning online that a popular herbal supplement used to boost the immune system could create a cytokine storm and shouldn't be used during coronavirus.

QUESTION:

Could taking elderberry during the COVID-19 pandemic, create a cytokine storm?

ANSWER:

There's no evidence of this, our experts say.

SOURCES:

Dr. Randy Cron- Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham

Dr. Victoria Shamnugam- Director of the George Washington University Division of Rheumotology

Dr. Chris D'adamo- Director of the Center for Integrative Medicine  

PROCESS:

Some people are putting out a warning about taking Elderberry supplements during this pandemic.

They say it can wreak your immune system by creating something called a "cytokine storm." 

Our verify team decided to take a closer look.

Our researchers contacted experts from George Washington University, University of Maryland and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Two have treated cytokine storm personally.

They explained that cytokines are proteins in your body that can cause inflammation. There are also cytokines that can be beneficial to your immune system.

During a cytokine storm, your body goes into an overactive immune response that can ultimately lead to organ failure.

"There's a whole slew of them, and some are very good at helping you fight off infections," Dr. Randy Cron said. "During cytokine storm, the ones that cause inflammation, get too and high..and too too overly exuberant that the immune system can no longer keep them in check."

We asked our experts about this 2001 paper many of those online warnings are sourcing as proof.

Boiled down, the paper says when Israeli scientists added elderberry syrup to blood cells, it stimulated the production of cytokines. But the study never mentions creating a dangerous cytokine storm.

"I don’t think you can extrapolate a whole lot from that so I wouldn’t be overly concerned,"  Cron said. "If you are taking elderberry supplements, if people are really concerned about it they can just stop them."

"There isn’t any data specific to elderberry and COVID-19," Dr. Victoria Shamnugam said. "In general at this time I would not recommend taking any extra supplements or herbs right now that you’ve not already cleared with your doctor."

Our experts said cytokine storm is typically triggered by autoimmune diseases or infection, not herbal supplements.

"Elderberry can increase inflammatory cytokines in people with an otherwise healthy condition, that’s desirable that helps us fight infections; however, there’s no evidence that elderberry would increase the risk of a cytokine storm," Dr. Chris D'adamo said. 

So we can verify that our experts all say, there’s no evidence that taking elderberry can trigger cytokine storm putting you at greater risk during the pandemic.

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