Flu on the Menu?
excerpt from Flu: Alternative Treatments and Prevention
The dreaded Flu is back. Or at least the world’s media would have us believe that War of the Worlds and Armageddon are just firework shows compared to the invaders about to attack our immune systems. When the United Nations avian flu coordinator predicted on September 29 that 150 million people will die of an imminent flu pandemic, the United States Senate voted to provide $4 billion for antiviral drugs and other measures to prepare for this catastrophe. Who will benefit from this legislation? Over $3 billion would be used to stockpile the antiviral drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu). Good news for drugmaker Roche Laboratories. Do I hear the phrase “backroom deals?” Is anyone planning to stockpile homeopathic medicines proven to effectively treat the flu? Doubt it.
In the meantime, two studies published in Lancet this month show the relative ineffectiveness of the flu vaccine and the popular antiviral drug Amantadine in combating the flu. Overall drug resistance of flu viruses to antivirals has increased from 0.4 percent in 1994 to 12.3 percent in 2004. In fact, all human cases of the bird flu A(H5N1) have been resistant to antiviral drugs. Uh oh.
For any readers who do not have ultimate faith in the pharmaceutical industry’s ability to manage flu treatment, here is an excerpt from my book
FLU: Alternative Treatments and Prevention (North Atlantic Books, 2005).
Treatment of the Flu in Adults
Immediately when you begin feeling a scratchy throat or fever, begin a program of vitamin C, echinacea, vitamin A, and a Yin Chiao (or similar) Chinese herbal medicine formula. Chinese medicine views the flu as an attack by pathogenic Wind and Heat. The Heat symptoms include those of the inflammatory response—fever, sore throat, and dry cough. Wind symptoms manifest as joint pain, headache, and aching muscles. Typically, a treatment for flu in consists of an herbal formula prepared from individual herbs that clear Heat and dispel Wind from the body. The name Yin Chiao derives from the formula’s two main ingredients, Jin Yin Hua (Lonicera, honeysuckle flowers ) and Lian Chiao (forsythia buds), both of which clear Wind and Heat. Various manufacturers modify the original formula for specific effects, but the basic ingredients serve the function of clearing Heat and expelling Wind, thus relieving the cough, sore throat, headache, body ache, and fever that signal the onset of a flu.
Begin taking the homeopathic preparation Oscillococcinum at the onset of symptoms, then switch to the appropriate homeopathic medicine once your symptoms begin to develop clear characteristics.
Oscillococcinum was first studied in France during the 1987 flu epidemic caused by an H1N1 virus. This multi-center study examined the effect of Oscillococcinum (200C) on the early symptoms of flu. Results were published in the peer-reviewed British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. More patients in the treatment group recovered completely in the first 48 hours than the control group (17 percent of patients with active treatment compared to 10 percent of controls). More patients in the treatment group also judged the treatment as favorable compared to the placebo, 61 percent vs 49 percent (Ferley, 1989).
In 1990 German physicians replicated the French study of Oscillococcinum. They used the same criteria as the previous study and enrolled 372 patients. After 48 hours of treatment with Oscillococcinum the treatment group had significantly milder symptoms than the control group, and the number of patients with no symptoms from day two onward was significantly greater in the treatment group (17.4 percent) compared to the control group (6.6 percent) (Papp, 1998).
Both of these studies show a significant curative effect of a homeopathic medicine in the treatment of flu in carefully conducted, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials. Conventional antiviral drugs reduce the duration of flu by about one day if taken within the first 48 hours of illness (Cooper, 2003). Comparing the results of these studies with the meager effect of conventional treatment shows that homeopathy carries the potential to make a dramatic difference in any flu epidemic without the risk of drug side effects.
Another effective herb for relieving flu symptoms is black elderberry extract (Sambucol). Elderberry proved to cut short the flu by four days in a double-blind controlled study. Nearly 90 percent of patients given elderberry extract were completely cured with 2-3 days. In the control group it took six days for 90 percent of patients to recover (Zakay-Rones, 2004). A second clinical study showed similar results. Among the group receiving elderberry, 75 percent were much improved within two days, and 90 percent were completely cured by day three. The control group took six days before 90 percent were cured (Zakay-Rones, 1995). In that study elderberry was also found to inhibit the replication of both type A and type B flu viruses.
Those researchers also investigated the mode of action of elderberry on viruses. They found that elderberry inhibited the enzyme that attaches the virus to human cells and also inhibited the enzyme that breaks down the human cell wall allowing the virus to enter and kill the cell. Another group of researchers also showed that elderberry activates the immune system by increasing inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokine production (Barak, 2002).
First-stage treatment for flu (day one)
Oscillococcinum 200C ½ vial 3 times per day
Vitamin C 4–6 grams per day
Vitamin A 10,000–25,000 IU per day
Yin Chiao 3 times per day
Echinacea 900 mg powder per day, or 3 droppers 3 times per day
Sambucol 2 teaspoons per day
Often the initial treatment protocol will stop the illness and the symptoms will go away. If flu symptoms continue, move on to the next phase of treatment. If you have access to an acupuncturist, herbalist, or homeopathic practitioner, seek out their advice.
You can also choose a homeopathic medicine yourself that is indicated for the particular symptoms of your flu. Once specific characteristic symptoms have established themselves, it is possible to find the correct homeopathic medicine.
The two most frequently indicated homeopathic flu medicines over the past 100 years have been Gelsemium and Bryonia. Significant differences in the symptom pictures of these two medicines make it easy to decide which is the better fit. They are not the only medicines used to treat the flu, but between them they will probably fit the majority of cases.
Bryonia and Gelsemium type flus both come on slowly over a six- to twelve-hour period. You begin to feel gradually worse over that time. By the second day you have aching muscles, feel pretty bad, and usually have a headache. A Bryonia patient has more pain in the front of the head, which is definitely made worse by moving the head or moving the eyes, and feels better from pressing the hand on the head. A Gelsemium patient has pain in the back of the head with stiffness and aching in the neck and across the shoulders. With a Gelsemium flu you will not want to move much either, and you may feel worse from moving around, but you avoid movement primarily because you are so tired. The characteristic state of Gelsemium is lethargy and fatigue. By contrast, those sufferers who need Bryonia will be tired but also restless. Bryonia discomfort is worse from motion, but at the same time you feel the urge to move about restlessly in the bed. No position seems comfortable. Bryonia patients are thirsty, Gelsemium are not. In fact, those who need Bryonia are generally warmer and drier, with a desire for air and cool temperatures to calm the heat. Gelsemium patients are chilly and sensitive to cold; cold shivers go down their spine. At the same time those who need Gelsemium are clammy with the fever, and feelings of heat and cold may alternate. Bryonia patients have more coughing and chest symptoms, with a painful cough that aggravates the sore throat. The Bryonia cough will also cause chest pains, with the inevitable reaction of pressing the palm to the chest to minimize the movement caused by coughing.
Gelsemium patients do not have the energy to be emotional. Bryonia patients are irritable, worried, and fretful. They want to be left alone. Gelsemium cases are too exhausted to complain.
Contrasting Gelsemium and Bryonia
Chilly, with chills down spine Warm, with desire for cool air
Dull, sleepy, heavy Dull, but irritable, worried
Worse from movement All symptoms worse from movement, but restless
Headache at back of head Headache in forehead, better from pressure, worse with motion