Saturday, January 5, 2013

A few thoughts on this year's flu

As it seems like there is a particularly bad flu going around, I thought I would talk a little bit about it. I remember a few years back when H1N1 was going around there was a surge of energy going through the herbal community. Where conventional treatments seemed to have little to offer, our herbal treatments really seemed to help. Anecdotally this was a great validation for the herbal remedies we use in flu. Elderberry seemed like a champion and there was even some interesting research about elderberry extracts inhibiting flu replication by preventing viral binding to host cells. This year's flu has been particularly virulent. Part of the problem is the particular strain of Type A flu. It is the H3N2 strain and health care workers say it is making people far sicker than other types of influenza. From discussions with other herbalists, this seems to be quite true. Unfortunately our usual arsenal of elderberry and other herbs seem to be less effective against this year's strain. Why this is is unclear. Past research on elderberry and H3N2 strains have shown effectiveness against this type of flu.

Even if it isn't as effective against this particular strain of the flu, elderberry is still useful as an adjunct treatment. It's antimicrobial qualities are helpful at preventing the secondary infections that sometimes occur. Other useful herbs are boneset (which helps with the body aches), elderflower (for helping you through a healing fever), and peppermint to cool and soothe. Eating lots of garlic, onions, and ginger is also helpful for a variety of reasons. The best thing you can do for yourself is to rest. And I don't mean work from home. I mean to really convalesce and let your body do its important work of healing.

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