How to Survive Influenza

Herbal medicine is wonderful for any kind of cold and flu. The key to successful use of herbs is to take them early and often. I began with Gaia Respiratory Defense capsules 2 caps every 3-4 hours with lots of watered down juice. I also drank an entire bottle of Apitherapy Wild Cherry Cough Syrup at 1 tbsp every 2-3 hours for the first 36 hours – this is a New England centric product but any herbal wild-cherry or horehound based product would do. If you live in a bigger city Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa is an awesome Chinese cough syrup available at many health food stores. Mix 1 tbsp of the Nin Jiom thick syrup with hot water for a soothing tea/cough syrup 3-4 times daily.With these two products I was successful in clearing the lungs, and ended up with only some minor sniffles.

“Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever” is an old saying. When you have a fever, your body does not have energy or attention to pay to the digestive system. Most people do not have an appetite anyways, so it its Best Practice to focus on fresh fruit, juice, water, and soup broth. Apple sauce, popsicles and crackers are also good choices. Follow your intuition when it comes to food. Herbal tea with fresh lemon and honey is also healing and soothing. Echinacea tea, or any “throat tea” or “cold tea” will be beneficial. Don’t be afraid to *not* eat if you are not hungry; however make sure you maintain some caloric intake so your body has fuel to fight (unless it is a stomach flu.) Your appetite returning will be a sign of health.

Other things that help fight off influenza – elderberry syrup has tasty evidence based antiviral capabilities. Taking a minimum of  5,000IU of vitamin D and 2000 mg of old fashioned vitamin C will both speed recovery as well. This years flu is highly contagious – please don’t “be brave” and work/shop/be out and about unless you absolutely need to. Ask a friend to pick you up something and drop it off, take time off work, and REST! Everyone else will thank you for it, and you will recover faster in the end, with less complications than if you have suffered through it publicly.

I haven’t had the flu…. ever before. And I had not had a fever since I was a child. Boy, together they make an awful combination! I spent most of the week between Christmas and New Years Eve lying in bed with a face-headache, sweating, chilled, sniffley, and unable to do much more than lay with my eyes closed.However, I did recover rather quickly, without losing more than a couple days of work and a few pounds. During my fever induced vacation, I had time to consider fever medicine, and to mull over how many people have actually died from influenza over the course of history.

Curious as to how this self-limiting virus induced illness could literally wipe out generations, I took to Medscape to better understand why the flu can have such devastating effects.  From the article “Christmas 2009: Years Like This: The Spanish Influenza Pandemic Seen Through the BMJ’s Eyes: Observations and Unanswered Questions” by Tom Jefferson, Eliana Ferron BMJ. 2009;339:b5313 it is clear that it was not a simple case of influenza that killed so many people, but rather a combination of factors including environment, hygiene, medical practices of the times, and a lack of immunity to the European microbial ferment that wiped out staggering numbers of  people. The article states:

” The causes of the high case fatality rate are still unclear, but modern research suggests that the pandemic was a lot more than just a “one germ-one disease” affair. [19] … Agents other than the influenza virus probably played a part. Above all, the environmental explanations of the high [Samoan and Lapp] mortality rates indicate the peril of generalizing across contexts and simplifying causation models. “

In other words, early pandemics were about more than just a flu virus. They were complicated environmental scenarios where subsequent (fatal)  infections developed. Therefore, most of us in modern times are highly unlikely to die from influenza. This is of course, a more serious condition for people who have a defective immune system and for individuals on either end of the age spectrum who are more fragile. So, knowing that one is unlikely to die from the flu or fever, are you more willing to suffer through the symptoms if you knew it would be over sooner?

I was raised with the belief that a fever is an opportunity for “cleansing” on a spiritual and physical level. Fevers up to 102.5 are still considered safe and effective for a healthy person. The heat in the body serves as a natural autoclave, killing bacteria and viruses quickly and effectively. In my upbringing, it was also “burning karma” and an opportunity to cleanse oneself from spiritual burdens. This is what I focused on as my fever climbed from 101.5-102.5. I felt awful and was miserable and in pain. But, I kept telling myself I was in the process of transformation! It seemed to justify the misery in a way. There is of course, a limit to pain and suffering and modern medicine has much to offer. Therefore, I would return to my 400mg of Ibuprofin at night to help me sleep and reduce my pain and fever for the night. After all, sleep is as important in recovery as anything else is. Thus, I do suggest when you or a loved one has influenza, to allow a fever to burn within a safe range up to 102.5 F (Technically a fever is safe up to 104.5F) . Fever reducing medications can always be used as needed when the tolerance level of suffering is reached. Belladonna 30CH is a homeopathic fever reducing medication that can be used safely in children and adults as needed. It acts as a trigger to the body to reduce its thermostat, without actually suppressing the fever like NSAIDS do. This is a great medication to have in your home first aid kit. I was happy to dig mine out at 2:30 am on my second night sick – anything for relief in those sick midnight hours!

A final thought on cold medications – allergy pills, Dayquil, and other daytime cold and flu medications are most likely going to fail in the face of influenza. You are better off lying in bed and letting your fever burn while you try and watch some tv. However, night time is  when I believe some medication can be necessary as most people worsen in the night. No natural cough syrup is going to be as effective a pharmacy brand one. If I am hacking in the night with a cough, I use a pediatric cough suppressant as they contain less alcohol and chemicals than adult ones. Using Nyquil, or Ibuprofen/Tylenol at night to sleep is perfectly reasonable if it actually works for you. (If it doesn’t work, stop taking it and call your Naturopathic Dr for more treatment support.)

In summary – Rest, liquids, soups, belladonna 30ch, wild cherry cough syrup, vitamin C, vitamin D, elderberry, and a herbal formula that treats your constellation of symptoms are all components of successfully navigating a bout of influenza. Allow the fever to burn, whether you view it as a natural autoclave or a spiritual cleansing (or both) is up to you. A cough that lasts more than 7 days, fever above 102.5, or consistent vomiting for more than 36 hours are all good reasons to call your primary care provider and check in.

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