Natural Stuff to Do for Colds & Flu

Feb 17, 05:20 PM

The flu made its way around early this year, along with a severe cold which physicians nationwide are referring to as a superbug. Much of the country is being hit by a norovirus (stomach flu) at the moment, and it is still possible for a second wave of type B influenza to make the rounds. I am seeing many people whose flu or cold has segued into chronic bronchitis or pneumonia.

All these illnesses are viral in nature, and consequently do not respond to antibiotics. If you can't get a quick prescription for Tamiflu when the need arises, what can you do? And that's another story altogether, you can read about the Tamiflu controversy here.

It turns out that there are many natural remedies that will minimize the effects of cold or flu infection, and in many cases completely prevent infection from becoming established. The key with all these remedies is to begin using them at first onset of symptoms, or none of them are likely yield the desired result. Here are a few of the most popular and effective:

Essential Oils
Eucalyptus radiata (Eucalyptus radiata), niaouli (Melaleuca quinquinervia viridiflora) and ravintsara (Cinnamomum camphora ct. cineole) are all strongly antiviral and antibacterial, making them appropriate oils for both cold/flu symptoms and overall sanitation of the home or office environment. These form the Terrible Trinity for fighting winter airborne illnesses. They are most effective when used in a high-output diffuser, which will disperse essential oils into every nook and cranny in a given room. These 3 oils can be used individually or in combination. In terms of topical application, I won't repeat the information I've posted over the past several winters, but you can search the AromaBlog archives to view previous articles. Additionally, good protocols for the onset of cold/flu symptoms are given in Dr. Daniel Penöel's Natural Home Health Care with Essential Oils and Kurt Schnaubelt's Medical Aromatherapy. For norovirus, niaouli can be effective, but you might need to use a completely different selection of essential oils: clove (Eugenia caryophyllus), thyme (Thymus vulgaris ct. thymol) or oregano (Origanum herocleoticum) are possible choices.

Tincture of Propolis
My German friends taught me about this remedy some 15 years ago, and insist that many Europeans swear by it. I do, too. Propolis is a hard, sticky black resin produced by honeybees to seal the inside of their hive against invading pathogens (It is not the same as bee pollen or royal jelly). The resin is made into a tincture which may be taken in warm water or tea throughout the day when cold/flu symptoms first appear. If you cannot take alcohol, glycerine-based tinctures are available. These can be gotten at any health food store, and I've even met a few beekeepers who make their own tinctures.

Black Elderberry Tea
This herbal remedy is specific to flu. Dried elderberries (Sambucus nigra) can be found at some health food stores and from reputable online ethnic and herbal apothecaries. To make a tea (tisane), simmer 2 cups of dried berries in 2 quarts water for about an hour. Strain, cool, and sip the tea throughout the day. I prefer the tea, but if it all sounds like too much work for you, a standardized elderberry syrup, Sambucol, can be purchased at many health food stores and conventional pharmacies.

This homeopathic remedy can be taken sublingually and is produced by Boiron USA. Although it is advertised as "temporarily relieving flu-like symptoms," like the remedies above, it can completely kill off the flu if used quickly enough. Do not use homeopathic remedies in tandem with aromatherapy, as some essential oils will interfere with the action of true homeopathic dilutions. It's especially important to avoid mint, eucalyptus and pepper oils.

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