Q: Now that we are into cold season, it’s a pity that the use of elderberry isn’t better known. A traditional treatment for coughs and colds is elderberry rob — a vegetable juice thickened by heat. To make this, elderberries are boiled with honey, cinnamon and allspice, and the resulting syrup is strained and mixed with a little brandy as a preservative. A few spoonfuls of this, mixed into hot water, usually reduces cold symptoms very effectively.

Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) grows wild in many places in North America. I suspect that the homemade syrup probably retains more of the plant’s properties than most over-the-counter Sambucus preparations.

A: Elderberry juice preparations have long been used to treat respiratory infections. Although it is not well-studied, an analysis concluded that “Supplementation with elderberry was found to substantially reduce upper respiratory symptoms” (Complementary Therapies in Medicine, February 2019). An Australian study found that air travelers taking elderberry were less prone to colds and had milder symptoms (Nutrients, March 24, 2016).

Q: Is coenzyme Q10 helpful in treating atrial fibrillation?

A: Let’s start with atrial fibrillation. This irregular heart rhythm occurs when the upper chambers of the heart are beating fast and out of sync with the lower chambers. Blood clots can form and may pose a risk for stroke. Obviously, such an arrhythmia must be treated by a specialist.

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a natural antioxidant that is crucial for the energy factories of the cells, called mitochondria. Statins, among other drugs, can deplete the body of CoQ10.

There is very little research on the effect of supplementation with CoQ10 for preventing or treating AFib. The few studies that have been published suggest that there may be some benefit (Journal of Investigative Medicine, June 2015).


Q: I am a general practitioner interested in finding a reliable book of home remedies. Many of my patients would like less-expensive approaches for common conditions. I think people like you are a great asset to the health-care team. I would appreciate your advice.

A: We’re blushing from your compliment. Over the past 40 years, we have collected a variety of home remedies from medical journals as well as from readers of this column. You will find our favorites in “The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies.” Anyone who would like a copy can find it at the library or local bookseller. To order directly, please send $16.95 plus $4 postage and handling to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, Dept. QHHR, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, North Carolina, 27717-2027. Others may find it helpful as a holiday gift.

There is a surprising amount of scientific evidence supporting the use of home and herbal remedies. We’re delighted to hear from a physician who appreciates these affordable approaches.