The difference between people who tend to be sick and others who never succumbing to the latest bug lies in their immune system. This complex system is made up of connective tissue; lymph glands; various organs, such as bone marrow, thymus, and spleen; and various cells including white blood cells, T cells, and B cells to name a few. Each have specialized jobs to keep us healthy. Therefore, anytime there is a “hole” in the system, opportunistic bacteria and viruses can move in. There are germs around us all the time; the difference of whether or not we get sick lies in our immune system’s strength.
Influenza is a viral infection that effects the respiratory system. Viruses can’t reproduce on there own but must invade a living cell to replicate. Some viruses kill cells while others alter the cell and can leave genetic material in the host cell. Because of this process, they constantly shift and drift to survive, sometimes forming deathly epidemic strands. For this reason, conventional treatment via the flu shot is a flawed solution; it is like aiming for an ever moving and constantly changing target. Sometimes you hit and sometimes you miss completely.
Two special molecules found on the outside of the virus particle identify the different flu strains. Hemagglutinin (H) allows the virus to bind to and enter a specific cell. This is usually what your immune system targets, so changes to this molecule allow the virus to avoid detection. Neuraminidase (N) allows the newly created viruses to exit a cell and spread the infection. There are 16 different hemagglutinin subtypes and 9 different neuraminidase subtypes. The numbers you see within the strand name (ex. H1N1) refer to these subtypes. Getting a flu vaccine can protect against flu stands that are the same or related to the strands in the vaccine. Currently, the target is Influenza H1N1 and H3N2. H1N1 is typically upper respiratory easily spreads and is rarely fatal. H5N1 is lower respiratory, spreads slower and highly fatal.
The harm from the flu is not the virus itself but the body’s inflammatory response to the invading virus.
- Fever over 101
- Dry cough
- Head ache
- Chills sweats
- Aching especially in the back, arms, and legs
- Quick onset (colds are slower)
- Nasal congestion
- Fatigue and weakness
Most plants downregulate what produces the inflammation response (cytokines). Herbs can:
- Support the tissues
- Modulate inflammation
- Support nervous system function
I have detailed 5 potent herbs with historically-confirmed and scientifically-backed cold and flu fighting power. You might consider using these herbs in conjunction with a flu shot or as a replacement to improve your immune response. I recommend incorporating these remedies into your fall/winter diet.
Echinacea angustifolia (also Echinacea puruprea, Echinacea pallida):
Echinacea is one of the most widely used and most effective used flu remedies in the world. It is known to improve the body’s natural immune system to help prevent viral illnesses, as well as reduce the length and severity your body’s response to the flu symptoms when taken immediately after symptoms appear.
You can make an Echinacea tincture which you can find at our office. Alcohol tincture (1:5) – 3 to 4 ml 3 times daily. The liquid forms of Echinacea is more effective than tablets or capsules as part of Echinacea’s benefit is due to direct contact with the tonsils and other lymphatic tissues at the back of the throat. I recommend Mountain Rose Herbs for purchasing herbs – or growing them in your own back yard.
Ginger Root (Zingiber officinale)
Ginger Root is one of the best and most popular herbal remedies for treating cold and flu symptoms and for helping the body to heal. Ginger works on several levels, most notably by inducing sweating to aid in detoxifying the body and by soothing the digestive tract so a sick person can eat without feeling nauseous. Traditionally, ginger root can control a cough and reduce inflammation associated with colds and the flu.
Recover or intercept flu symptoms with this great herbal tea. To make, simmer a couple of cinnamon sticks and slices of fresh organic ginger in water for at least 20 minutes. You may want to add some locally grown organic honey to soothe a sore throat, making it an effective and natural cough suppressant.
Garlic is a powerful anti-bacterial and anti-viral herb that may be consumed to safely prevent and heal cold and flu infections, as well as other life-threatening illnesses like pneumonia. Additionally, fresh garlic extract has been shown to improve the antibiotic activities of other medicines when taken together.
To get the most out of garlic’s flu-fighting properties, it’s best to chew a raw clove every three or four hours. If you can’t bear the taste, try cutting cloves into pieces and swallowing them down like pills or mixed crushed garlic with honey. Additionally, onion is a close to garlic biologically and contains many similar antiviral chemicals though not as powerful.
Not thrilled about taking raw garlic? Try this soup:
Garlic and Onion Soup Ingredients
- Two organic onions, sliced and caramelized.
- Four globes of organic garlic, roasted (The “globe” is the entire head of garlic with all of its “cloves” or pieces.)
- 1/2 gallon of soup broth (bone preferably or vegetable-based)
- One bay leaf
- One sprig of rosemary.
- Thinly sliced raw garlic to taste.
Steep raw onion slices overnight in honey. Take the resulting mixture at intervals like a cough syrup. You can also use more onions in cooking whenever you have a cold.
Elderberry is a traditional folk remedy for cold, flu, and sinus infections which has been scientifically proven to possess antiviral and antibacterial properties. Recent scientific studies have determined that anthocyanins found naturally in elderberries help to strengthen the immune system and inhibit virus attachment to cells inside the body, thus preventing the infecting flu virus from replicating.
Elderberry has also traditionally been used as a diaphoretic, anti-catarrhal, expectorant, circulatory stimulant, diuretic, and topical anti-inflammatory. Due to the tannins and viburnic acid contained in the fruit – both of which are known to have a positive effect on cold and flu symptoms affecting the gastrointestinal tracts and nasal passages – these traditional claims boast fairly solid backing by modern science.
At the first sign of flu symptoms, take a hot infused homemade tea of elderberry tincture, dried yarrow and dried peppermint right before bed to induce sweating and promote a good night’s rest or to boost your immune system make a homemade infusion of dried elderberries, cinnamon sticks, turmeric root, and raw organic honey.
German Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla or Matricaria recutita)
German Chamomile soothes nerves, relaxes the mind and body, and helps us sleep. This popular herb is also great for relieving cold and flu symptoms including congestion, nausea, headaches, and sinus pressure. It contains chamazulene, an anti-inflammatory agent. Chamomile is useful taken by mouth or inhaled in a vapor. Because of this, it is ideal to take as a tea where you inhale the steam as you drink it. It is also beneficial in a hot bath mixture with Epson salts. We carry both the tea and Chamomile bath salts at our office.