Herbs for the Flu, Tested By Science
It is getting to be time that we all get a bit more sophisticated about the flu, what with the Avian flu fears looming as a possible global pandemic. Vaccinations, antiviral drugs and pharmaceuticals are not the focus of this article, but finding effective herbs to help combat the illness is.
A flu and cold are often difficult to differentiate, but a flu is usually worse. Symptoms include a fever with chills, runny nose, cough, headache, and a feeling of malaise or tiredness. Although the most acute symptoms usually subside within three days, symptoms such as weakness and coughing may persist for ten days. Even though the flu is typically self-limiting, serious complications can arise in the very young or the elderly or those with a preexisting disease.
Two herbs have stood the test of science as being effective against the flu.
The ideal approach to the flu is, of course, prevention. This might be accomplished by improving the immune system, especially in the fall as flu season approaches. Several studies have shown that astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous) extracts can stimulate the immune system. Use astragalus as an extract or add the root to soups.
If you do get the flu, here are two herbs shown to help reduce the severity of the illness.
1. Elder (Sambucus nigra) has a tradition of use for the treatment of colds and flu and has stood the test of science. The flowers from this plant have demonstrated antiviral activity against both influenza types A and B, as well as herpes simplex virus type 1. It also possesses anti-inflammatory activity.
A clinical study showed that a standardized elderberry extract, Sambucol, improved the symptoms of influenza with a complete recovery in two to three days, compared to a six-day recovery period for the group not receiving the herb. In this study patients were diagnosed with influenza type B. Elder may act by stimulating the bodyís own interferon or by preventing attachment of the virus to the bodyís surfaces.
2. Licorice root has also demonstrated antiviral activity. When mice infected with lethal doses of influenza virus were treated with glycyrrhizin, an active component of licorice, they were protected from death due to the virus and had less lung damage than did mice treated with saline controls.
Editorís Note: As with all herbs, if you are pregnant or have health concerns, consult with a doctor before taking those recommended here.
Adapted from The Antibiotic Alternative: The Natural Guide to Fighting Infection and Maintaining a Healthy Immune System by Cindy L. A. Jones, Ph.D. (Inner Traditions, 2000).