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Health Goals, New & Noteworthy Research, Plant Based, Year-Round Health

Stop It Cold Cough Syrup, It’s All About Elderberry and Wild Cherry!

In 2016, Health Canada reminded parents not to give cold and cough medications to children 6 years old or younger, because the products “have not been shown to be effective” and, further, have the potential for “serious harm”.1 It’s reasonable to assume, I think, that, if they don’t work in young children, these OTC drug products probably don’t work in older children or adults either. In fact, a 2007 clinical trial found that the popular active ingredient dextromethorphan (DM) (a drug commonplace in cough medicines like Dimetapp, Benylin DM, Robitussin, Nyquil, etc.) was no more effective than placebo and was in fact inferior to honey, which was found to be significantly effective for coughs! The authors of that study concluded that, “honey but not DM was superior to no treatment for nocturnal symptoms associated with childhood upper respiratory tract infection”. 2 (Note that Stop It Cold® Cough Syrup contains honey in addition to the medicinal ingredients listed below).

Let’s examine the uniquely compelling therapeutic rationale for the ingredients in this innovative recipe, grounded as it is in both research and tradition:

Elderberry juice concentrate

Elderberry is antiviral and antibacterial, while having mucous membrane soothing and immune-enhancing qualities. The berries are rich in flavonoid compounds that have potent inhibitory activity on several strains of influenza.3 

A clinical trial conducted in Norway in 2000, for example, investigated the effectiveness of elderberry extract in 60 patients with the flu. The results of the trial found that influenza symptoms disappeared 4 days earlier (i.e. in 2 days v. 6 in the placebo group), and the need for symptomatic medications like Tylenol or Advil was significantly less in those receiving elderberry as opposed to placebo. The authors concluded that “Elderberry extract seems to offer an efficient, safe and cost-effective treatment for influenza.”4

An in-vitro study, meanwhile, compares the efficacy of elderberry compared to the antiviral drug, Oseltamivir, for inhibition of the virulent H1N1 virus, concluding that the anti-H1N1 activities “compare favorably” to the anti-influenza properties of Oseltamivir.5 

Wild cherry bark (Prunus serotina)

According to Native American ethnobotanist, Daniel Moerman, wild cherry bark was a favourite remedy of numerous native American tribes, with uses chronicled as follows:

“Coughs, colds, fevers - Cherokee

Cholera and tuberculosis - Chippewa

Diarrhea, coughs, and as a tonic for general debility - Delaware

Coughs, colds, fevers, headaches, bronchitis, lung inflammation, sore throats, blood purification - Iroquois.”6

Eclectic physician and author John William Fyfe describes the properties of wild cherry bark as effective for respiratory membrane irritations, its effect being not just due to the alleviation of cough but also the fact that it lowers fevers, while improving both strength and appetite.7   

Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)

Echinacea is antiviral, antibacterial, and immune enhancing. Its effectiveness as an antiviral measure for preventing and treating colds is well-known. A 1997 clinical trial demonstrates that echinacea as a component of a 4-ingredient formula is significantly more effective at relieving cough than is a placebo.8

Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis)

Marshmallow is considered one of our most effective demulcent herbs, that class of herb known to contain mucilage, a soothing component for mucous surfaces like inflamed and irritated bronchi. In his famous Herbal of the 17th century, Nicholas Culpeper comments that marshmallow “… doth marvellously help excoriation, the phthisic, pleurisy, and other diseases of the chest and lungs”.9 

Lobelia (Lobelia inflata)

Lobelia was discovered by Samuel Thomson, the progenitor of the Thomsonian movement in the US in the early 19th century. It calms spasmodic coughs. “Lobelia … has long had a splendid reputation as a cough medicine,” writes Finley Ellingwood, MD, in 1915. “It is indicated when there is a sense of tightness or constriction in the chest, with difficult breathing”.10

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    1. Health Canada reminds parents not to give cough and cold medication to children under 6 years old. Accessed July 31, 2017 at http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/recall-alert-rappel-avis/hc-sc/2016/57622a-eng.php.
    1. Paul IM, et al. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2007; 161 (12): 1140-1146.
    1. Krawitz C, et al. BMC Complement Altern Med 2011; 11:16.
    1. Zakay-Rones Z, et al. J Int Med Res 2004; 32: 132-140.
    1. Roschek B Jr, et al. Phytochemistry 2009; 70: 1255–1261.
    1. Moerman DE. Native American Ethnobotany. Cambridge: Timber Press; 1998.
    1. Fyfe JW. Specific Diagnosis and Specific Medication. Cincinnati: John K. Scudder; 1914, p. 683 
    1. Thom E, Wollan T. Phytother Res 1997; 11: 207 
    1. Culpeper, Nicholas. Culpeper’s Complete Herbal. London: Richard Evans; 1816. (reprint of the original 1653 edition)
    1. Ellingwood, Finley, ed. Protracted Cough. Ellingwood’s Therapeutist 1915; 9 (2): 34.

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