03 Mar Fighting back with herbal medicine for flu
Hannah Charman is a Medical Herbalist. She graduated from Middlesex University with an Honours Degree in Western Herbal Medicine, following four years of full-time study. Before she began studying Herbal Medicine. She is a Member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH).
The word ‘Flu’, is short for ‘influenza’ and it’s a common viral infection which can give us a range of symptoms rather like a bad cold. However, you can fight back with herbal medicine for flu.
The main difference is that it’s much more debilitating, and for some people, including pregnant women, those with other respiratory problems or those on chemotherapy, it can be very dangerous.
The ‘£50 test’ is a good way of telling if you have a cold or flu: if someone put £50 on the other side of the room for you, and you wouldn’t feel able to get out and fetch it, you probably have flu! Obviously that’s not an official diagnostic test, but as some people mistake a bad cold for flu, it should give you an idea of the difference.
There are lots of different strains of flu which are continually mutating, making them difficult to control by using vaccines alone. Whether or not you choose to have a vaccination, there are other ways you can help to make your immune system more robust against flu and other winter illnesses, and we’ll talk more about that in a moment.
Symptoms of Flu include:
- A high temperature which can come on quite suddenly
- Aching muscles and joints
- Feeling exhausted
- Sore throat
- Dry cough
- An upset tummy
A bout of flu can easily last for two to three weeks and it can take up to another four weeks after that to see a full recovery.
Taking herbal medicine for flu can help you feel more comfortable during your illness, and make recovery easier. You can either use tablets such as HRI Coldcare from your supermarket or health food shop, or consult a medical herbalist.
How you can help yourself
If you’re in one of the high-risk groups, seek medical advice from your GP or 111. There’s not much available for flu itself in mainstream medicine, although inhalers etc can be used to control symptoms like breathlessness. Herbal medicine for flu is a useful adjunct to these.
Drink plenty of fluids – herbal teas and cordials are an effective way to feel more comfortable, and you could use Elderflower cordial or Peppermint tea drunk hot to help quickly bring down a high temperature. Kitchen spices like Ginger, Cayenne, or Cardamom will help you during the chill stage when your skin looks pale and you feel cold.
Rest – call in reinforcements to help with childcare or work commitments, and make sure you get plenty of rest both during and after your illness. Post viral fatigue is common after ‘flu so it’s important to convalesce properly.
Allow yourself to have a high temperature (within safe limits) – it’s your body’s way of burning off the virus and history tells us it has many other long term benefits. Monitor a fever closely with a thermometer and if it becomes too high, particularly in young children, use Elderflower cordial or an over the counter medicine to bring it down again. Always call 111 if you are concerned about a high fever.
Herbal medicine for flu
In herbal medicine, we’ve known about Echinacea and its ability to strengthen immunity for a very long time. More recently scientific studies have found out more about how it works, and one has found that Echinacea can help to prevent secondary bacterial chest infections resulting from ‘flu . Another study found promising results in using Echinacea to enhance the response to the ‘flu vaccine.
As well as Echinacea, there are certain nutrients we can take in higher doses to improve the immune response and help to prevent and manage ‘flu. Vitamin C works on the immune system in many different ways, but we need very high amounts.
Traditionally, this would have come from fresh fruit and veg in our diet. Ideally at least half our diet should be made up of these foods, but that’s rarely the case, and the fruit and veg we eat can be months old by the time we buy it. By then, the nutrient content can be very much diminished, so whilst we think we’re getting enough from our diet, we’re actually probably falling way short!
There are a number of studies concluding that in fact Vitamin C supplementation doesn’t prevent or treat respiratory infections. However, my own experience, and that of my patients makes me think it’s very effective.
The key is to have very high amounts, taken little and often throughout the day. Vitamin C does its work and is out of the body within 5 hours of going in, so taking too small a dose, or all in one go simply won’t work properly.
Likewise, Zinc is another immune-boosting nutrient, which works in a number of ways. This Thai study looked at children with respiratory infections and found that when they took Zinc supplements they needed less time in hospital. Mild zinc deficiency can lead to recurrent infections, but unlike with Vitamin C, taking too much can be harmful so always make sure you stick to the recommended dosage of any herbal medicine or supplement that contains Zinc.
HRI Coldcare is the first THR-licensed traditional herbal medicine for colds and flu to contain Echinacea, plus Vitamin C and Zinc, and is designed to provide relief from the symptoms of the common cold and influenza (flu) type infections, based on traditional use.
Each HRI Coldcare tablet contains 56mg of extract from Echinacea purpurea root, equivalent to 338-450mg of Echinacea root, plus 29.3mg of Vitamin C (as Ascorbic Acid) and 3.3mg of Zinc (as Zinc Gluconate). Two tablets provide 100% of the recommended daily amount of Vitamin C and Zinc to supplement what you are getting from your diet.
You can buy HRI Coldcare from our shop on Amazon or from Holland & Barrett, Superdrug, Sainsbury’s Morrisons and Asda.