Nature’s Defense Against Seasonal Flu Outbreaks in Malaysia
After three years of the Covid-19 Pandemic Era, people are once again focusing on their general health concerns. The quest for natural and effective remedies to combat seasonal illnesses like the flu has gained unprecedented attention. Among the remarkable superfoods that have emerged as potent allies in this battle are Tiger Milk Mushroom and Black Elderberry.
According to The Star, the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners Associations Malaysia reported that Malaysia experiences seasonal flu outbreaks, which typically occur and peak from May to July and November to January. During the first 24 weeks of 2023, 18.45% of tested specimens were positive for influenza. Health Minister Dr. Zaliha has informed the public that these outbreaks can occur year-round, affecting people of all ages . According to Statista Research Department’s 2021 data, respiratory diseases were ranked as the fifth major cause of hospitalization in Malaysia . In response to recent health concerns, The Sun Daily reported that 79% of Malaysians are now more focused on their health and are willing to purchase or consume dietary supplements to improve their overall well-being post-pandemic . The terms ‘common cold’ and ‘flu’ have long been used interchangeably due to their shared symptoms. However, they have distinct definitions. Generally, the term ‘flu’ refers to illnesses caused by the influenza virus, while the common cold is caused by a variety of different viruses that attack the body’s immune system .
Fig 1: Black Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)
Understanding Influenza and Strengthening Immunity
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines influenza (flu) as an acute respiratory infection caused by various strains of influenza viruses. There are four known types of influenza viruses: A, B, C, and D, but the most common and significant for human health concerns are Influenza A and B, as they can lead to human epidemics. Influenza A is not limited to humans; it can also affect other species like birds and pigs, whereas Influenza B is mainly found in humans . Therefore, individuals vulnerable to flu and colds should prioritize obtaining a good source of vitamins and antioxidant-rich foods to boost their immunity against these viruses. People who experience flu symptoms are often advised to stay hydrated and incorporate nutritious foods into their diet, such as broth, chicken soup, fruits, and vegetables rich in vitamin C. Soupy foods can be an excellent choice for soothing a sore throat and relieving nasal congestion due to their warmth and nutritional content, which includes protein, iron, and antioxidants . Furthermore, the consumption of vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables helps strengthen the immune system and alleviate flu and cold symptoms .
As the trend of dietary supplements continues to gain popularity, as it is reported by local news, more people are turning to supplements in addition to consuming nutritious foods. In response to this growing market demand, many companies have developed a variety of health supplements. To address the ongoing concern of seasonal flu, many health supplement products incorporate popular ingredients such as Black Elderberry and Tiger Milk Mushroom.
Fig 2: Tiger Milk Mushroom (Lignosus rhinoceros)
Health Benefits of Black Elderberry and Tiger Milk Mushroom
Black Elderberry is a type of berry known for its round, shiny, dark-purple appearance, which is attributed to its anthocyanin properties. Black Elderberry is rich in various vitamins and trace elements, with a particular emphasis on its active compound, flavonoids (phenolic compounds). These constituents have been studied extensively and found to have antioxidant, anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, and immune-modulating properties. Therefore, the inclusion of elderberries in medical supplementation today offers significant benefits for respiratory, cardiovascular, and mental health. It is recognized as a defense against common colds and flu . Meanwhile, Tiger Milk Mushroom, which is also known as “Cendawan Susu Rimau,” offers its own set of beneficial effects. Recent research has shown that TMM supplementation effectively improves respiratory health, enhances immunity, and boosts antioxidant levels . The sclerotium of TMM is rich in carbohydrates, proteins, and dietary fibers. Conversely, it contains low levels of fat, sugar, and calories. As a result, it is considered a species with high nutritive value and is frequently used in traditional medicine .
To conclude, with today’s technology, there are many ways to combat the flu. You can choose between a nutritious diet and dietary supplements, but the key point is to keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Broths, chicken soup, and other soupy dishes are also considered flavorful hydrating fluids that one can choose from. Incorporating foods rich in Vitamin C, high antioxidants, and high nutritive value is highly beneficial for people who have symptoms of the flu. While supplements should not replace whole foods, they can provide the body with additional vitamins and minerals to alleviate existing symptoms.
- Fatimah Zainal. (2023, August 7). It’s almost always flu season. The Star. https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2023/08/07/its-almost-always-flu-season
- Statista Research Department. (2023, March 22). Major causes of hospitalization in Malaysia in 2021. https://www.statista.com/statistics/866189/major-causes-hospitalization-malaysia/
- 79% Malaysians more health conscious after pandemic: Survey (2023, August 8). The Sun Daily. https://www.thesundaily.my/local/79-malaysians-more-health-conscious-after-pandemic-survey-AA11339393
- Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, October 24). Key Facts About Influenza (Flu). https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/keyfacts.htm
- Schulman, J. S. (2023, February 2). How Are Influenza A and B Different?. https://www.healthline.com/health/cold-flu/influenza-a-vs-b#types
- What To Eat When You Have the Flu. (2021, October 25). HealthEssentials. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-to-eat-when-you-have-the-flu/
- Tiralongo, E., Wee, S. S., & Lea, R. A. (2016). Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. 2016; 8(4):182. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8040182
- Tan E. S. S, Leo T. K., & Tan C.K. (2021). Effect of tiger milk mushroom (Lignosus rhinocerus) supplementation on respiratory health, immunity and antioxidant status: an open-label prospective study. Sci Rep. 11(1):11781. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-91256-6. PMID: 34083710
- Kong, B. H., Tan, N. H., Fung, S. Y., Pailoor, J., Tan, C.-S., & Ng, S.-T. (2016). Nutritional composition, antioxidant properties, and toxicology evaluation of the sclerotium of Tiger Milk Mushroom Lignosus tigris cultivar E. Nutrition Research, 36(2), 174–183. doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2015.10.004