Herbal Remedies for the Flu

Between 1918 and 1919 over 20 million people died from the influenza virus. Ways to boost the immune system and method of transmission of the virus was not well publicized and as a result it spread quickly and killed many. The influenza virus is spread through respiratory secretions, from coughing and sneezing, and will usually run its course within one to two weeks. Symptoms include chills, fever, headache, soreness, backache and fatigue.

Individuals who are at higher risk for developing more severe disease often have an underlying medical condition that affects their immune system, such as AIDS, diabetes, cancer or asthma, or they are greater than 65 or younger than five.

For the largest majority of people, however, the flu causes uncomfortable and irritating symptoms that resolve on their own. The best way to treat the flu is to prevent getting it in the first place. That is accomplished by keeping your immune system in good condition and practicing good hygiene to prevent the spread of the virus.

If you do get the flu there are some home herbal remedies which will help you to decrease the severity of the disease, improve the symptoms more quickly and help you get back to your normal daily tasks much faster than letting the illness run its course.

Research has found that vitamin C will help to boost the immune system and increase the number of white blood cells which are produced in the body in order to help fight the influenza virus. Vitamin C is easily purchased at the grocery store, pharmacy or health food store and comes in either chewable tablets, powdered form or in pill form. Another vitamin or mineral supplement that has been shown to improve the immune system is Zinc.

Today zinc lozenges are easily found online and in the grocery store. When taken right when symptoms are noticed it can help to decrease the severity and longevity of the illness. There are also case studies and some research which shows that taking zinc lozenges prophylactically during flu season, or when exposed to individuals who may be sick, can help to prevent the onset of illness. (1)

Garlic is an herb which has been shown to decrease the growth of viruses within the body. Garlic also has some antibacterial properties and has shown great promise in the treatment of acne. Garlic capsules are available at the health food store or the pharmacy and should be taken as directed. (2)

When sick, many people enjoy the hot steamy properties of tea. By combining 1 teaspoon Bayberry bark, 1 teaspoon grated Ginger root, half teaspoon cayenne powder in a cup of boiling water you can also help to improve your symptoms of the flu.

Cats claw has also been found to shorten the duration of the symptoms of the flu and improve the way in which an individual feels. Cats claw can also be combined with Echinacea in order to boost the body’s immune system and prevent the growth of virus within the body. (3)

Research studies have been done on elderberries which show that it has antiviral properties, meaning that it helps to prevent the growth of a virus within the body. Based on the research, which was done on black elderberries, manufacturers produce a product called Sambucol which is available at the health food store and online. (4)

Anise is an herb that has been shown to stimulate mucus secretion in the lungs and throat. Beneset is an expectorant.

Be careful about the herbs that you choose to use during a cold or the flu. Check with an herbalist or well read health food practitioner to ensure the safety of the products you are using. Do NOT take any herbal medications when you have other underlying medical conditions that may be adversely affected, such as pregnancy, diabetes or asthma, unless you have a clearance from your pharmacist that they will not cause adverse side effects.

Although herbal supplements are ‘natural’ they also work much the same as any other supplement or medication in the body. It is possible to have an interaction with other medications or an adverse reaction with your own body.

(1) University of Maryland Medical Center: Influenza

(2) Microbes and Infection: Antimicrobial Properties of Allicin from Garlic

(3) National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Cat’s Claw

(4) European Cytokine Network: The Effect of Sambucol, a Black Elderberry-Based, Natural Product, on the Production of Human Cytokines: I. Inflammatory Cytokines