Does sambucus extract help cure the flu?Featured science projectScience project video

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Complexity level:
Project cost ($):
Time required:
It will take an hour to set up the experiment, and 14 days to conduct it.
Material availability:
The Sambucus extract and Vitamin C can be purchased from a pharmacy
Safety concerns:

Be careful not to exceed the prescribed dosage of Sambucus/Vitamin C. Wash your hands frequent and wear masks to prevent spreading of the influenza virus, when dealing with the participants


This science project was performed to investigate whether Sambucus extract really does help to cure the common flu, as claimed by its manufacturers. Flu patients were given a placebo, vitamin C and Sambucus (elderberry) extracts in order to observe whether they reacted differently to each of these.


Among the participants, those who take the Sambucus extract will recover the fastest from the flu.


Common cold and flu cures

Patients who suffer from the common cold and flu normally experience these symptoms: a running nose, a sore throat, frequent sneezing and nose blocks (nasal congestion). Children and adults tend to contract flu between 2 and 10 times a year. The influenza virus spreads when a healthy person comes into contact with a flu patient.

Many people consume vitamin C in order to protect themselves from flu. They also take it to recover from the flu. Vitamin C is a natural vitamin. It is found in most vegetables and fruits, especially citrus fruits such as oranges. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant. It is an important supplement as it helps keep our bodies strong and healthy. Vitamin C supplements can be purchased at a pharmacy. However, many researchers remain uncertain of the true extent of the benefits of vitamin C. In addition to helping prevent the flu, can it really aid in the recovery of flu patients?

Sambucus (elderberry) extracts are also used to treat flu. The elderberry is actually a genus of no less than 30 small shrubs in the moschatel family, Adoxaceae. It is commonly found in sub-tropical regions. The leaves and branches of the elderberry plant actually contain a glycoside which if ingested, promote a build-up of toxic levels of cyanide in our bodies. Hence, elderberry teas should not be ingested. The berries however, have been used for generations as a cure for the common flu. However, studies have shown that it is only effective in treating flu and not protecting individuals from it.

Scientific Terms

Common cold, virus, vitamin, antioxidant, sambucus


The materials required for the experiment are as follows:

-    30 participants who have the common cold
-    a treadmill
-    a stopwatch
-    140 200mg tablets of vitamin C
-    2100ml of Nature's Way Sambucus extract
-    1400 placebo tablets


1.    For this experiment, the independent variable is to be the type of medicine the participants take (vitamin C tablets, Sambucus extracts or placebo tablets). The dependent variable is to be the amount of time the participants take to recover from the common cold. Observe the participants everyday, looking out for their flu symptoms. The following are to constitute the constants (control variables): all participants should be observed from the time they first display symptoms of the flue. They should be given the supplements at the same dosage level. They should be observed for the same length of time.

2.    Select 30 participants who have fallen ill . If it is not possible to find participants who have fallen ill at the same time, start the test on different dates but count the day on which each participant falls ill as the first day.

3.    Divide the participants into 3 groups of 10. The groups are to given the following treatments:

a.    Each participant in Group 1 is to be given a vitamin C tablet a day.
b.    Each participant in Group 2 is to be given 15ml of Sambucus extract a day.
c.    Each participant in Group 3 is to be given a placebo tablet a day.

4.    Give the participants the supplements everyday. For the next 14 days, observe them for their cold symptoms. Total the number of participants who still suffer from flu after 14 days and record this in the table below.


The Sambucus extracts were the most effective in curing the flu: all 10 participants recovered within 5 days. Those who took the vitamin C supplements recovered slightly sooner than those who took the placebo tablets.

Supplement Number of people who still suffered from flu after 14 days
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
Vitamin C 10 10 10 10 9 8 7 6 4 2 0 0 0 0
Sambucus 10 10 9 6 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Placebo 10 10 10 10 10 10 9 8 7 5 3 1 0 0

 Influenza sambucus science fair project


The hypothesis holds true: of  the participants, those who took the Sambucus extract recovered the fastest from flu.

Many people vitamin C tablets in order to lower the chances of contracting influenza and to recover from it. Still, clinical studies have not been able to prove conclusively that such tablets are truly effective in dealing with flu. On the other hand, there are studies that claim that Sambucus extracts can effectuate a quick recovery from flu.

Also consider

Engage participants who do not have flu. Conduct the experiment over a long period of time to see if the supplements are effective in reducing these individuals’ chances of contracting flu.

Compare 2 groups of participants – those who eat fruits and vegetables everyday and those that do not.


Common cold -

Vitamin C and the common cold -

Vitamin C for the common cold -

Sambucus -