Home Remedies For The Flu
Flu season has arrived and this year there is an added edge to it. Will we get a vaccine in time? Will it work? What can I do about it? We all have a lot of questions.
I have spent some time over the last few weeks reading information from CDC and the FDA. I’ve looked at articles on PubMed. I’ve also seen the proliferation of products that claim they can detect, cure, prevent, diagnose, etc. ad nauseum the flu. So has the FDA, and they are (rightly) cracking down.
Table Of Contents
Home Remedies For The Flu
I’m not going to tell you I can do any of the above. I can give you tips that *might* help you avoid the flu, and things that might help you get over it more comfortably.
You’ll see and/or hear this everywhere for the next several months. There’s quite a list of “do’s and don’ts” Do wash your hands in warm, soapy water frequently. Don’t touch your face with your hands. Do wipe down your shopping cart before you start shopping. Don’t go to visit a person with H1N1 unless you are there to help them. These are all fairly obvious. The use of a mask near someone with H1N1 is dependent on the type of mask and whether or not you adhere to the other precautions.
I have my own list, but they need a bit more explaining:
Echinacea: While this herb might help boost the immune system, it is not a flu version of a “get out of jail free” card. There are important instructions that you need to understand, and it still may not prevent the flu.
Do not take Echinacea on a constant, everyday basis. Doing so will damage your immune system. If you have been exposed to the flu, that is a good time to start taking it. After two weeks, whether or not you have caught the flu or been exposed again, you need to stop taking it for at least a week. If you have an auto-immune disorder (MS, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.) do not take Echinacea.
Goldenseal: This herb is often packaged with Echinacea, and the same warnings apply. Added to that, if you take statins for your cholesterol, do not take goldenseal. That combo can lead to muscle damage, kidney failure and death. It cannot be taken constantly and those with auto-immune disorders should not take it.
If You Get the Flu
It is extremely important that the type of flu you have be diagnosed by a doctor. It’s important for you, in the hopes that an antiviral will make short work of the illness. It’s important to the nation in order to track the flu and catch mutations before they cause greater problems.
There are a lot more “tools” for doctors now than there was during the last big pandemic. Several antiviral medications are available, which may shorten the duration of the illness and keep the symptoms more on the mild side.
Herbs that can be used during the flu are decided by symptoms. They can make it easier, but not stop the flu entirely. As with immune boosting herbs, they may interact with medications and/or make other conditions worse.
Gargling with salt water or green tea may help make a sore throat better. Herbs like licorice and marshmallow (not the stuff you roast over a campfire) may coat the throat and ease the pain. Licorice has many interactions.
I like to use a combination of cinnamon, allspice and cloves for a cough. If the throat isn’t sore, I sometimes add fresh ginger. It is very spicy, however. Equal parts honey and lemon make a good cough syrup (do not give honey to children under one). Wild cherry bark may also quiet the cough reflex. That is best used in an already prepared supplement.
To be honest, over the counter products are probably as good for fever as herbs. However, if you are dead set against them, willow bark or yarrow may do the trick. If you are allergic to aspirin, don’t use either, as they contain salicin; the active principle in aspirin.
Whatever you take for the fever will probably help with the body aches, but there are a few other things that might be useful. A cloth dipped in lavender tea may soothe aches. Cayenne and mustard plasters may also help. Of the three, only lavender is missing some stringent warnings. The other two can cause serious burns if not handled properly.
We adults might try to hide it, but you can see it easily in children with the flu. As the first wave subsides, it’s hard to rest. Sleeping and/or lying in bed can only be comfortable for so long, then it palls. You’re not well enough to get up and do, and laying there is uncomfortable.
Mild relaxants and sedatives may come in handy here. It should be noted that taking the following herbs with medications that cause drowsiness may be a bad idea. However, here are a few herbs that might come in handy. Catnip is good, and particularly good for children. Chamomile, passionflower and lavender could also help.