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Elderberry May Reduce Duration and Severity of Air Travel–Related Illness

6/7/2016 2:41:33 PM
Long-haul air travel—between continents, for instance—is stressful. It can leave travellers fatigued, anxious, and immune-suppressed. The cabin environment plays a role in this; cabin ozone levels, oxygen pressure, and aircraft engine oil additives all have been implicated in the unpleasant side effects of air travel.
Respiratory illness is among the most common medical complaints reported after lengthy flights. This could be due to a combination of factors: nasal dryness, which increases risk of upper respiratory disorders, and recirculated air, which adds to the spread of viruses and bacteria.
A 2016 paper published in the journal Nutrients examined whether a traditional immune-booster—elderberry—could protect against air travel–related respiratory illness. In a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial, gave either 312 people travelling by air from Australia to an overseas destination took either elderberry extract or placebo. Those in the elderberry group took two 300 mg capsules per day for 10 days leading up to travel. Then, from the day before travel until four or five days after arriving at the destination, they took three capsules per day. Participants recorded cold episodes, duration, and symptoms in a daily diary. They also completed surveys at baseline, just before travel, and 4 days after travel.
The researchers found that most cold episodes occurred in the placebo group (17 vs 12), though the difference was not statistically significant. However, there was a statistically significant difference in the duration (117 days in the placebo group vs. 57 in the treatment group) and the average symptom score (583 for placebo vs 247 for treatment).
This isn’t the first time elderberry has shown an effect against respiratory ailments—previous papers have found that elderberry extracts reduced duration and severity of cold and flu symptoms—but this is the first paper to show elderberry is helpful specifically for travel-related illness. More research is needed, but in the meantime, elderberry may be a safe and simple way to reduce the physical after-effects of air travel.  
Reference: 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):E182.