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    Influenza (Holistic)

    Influenza (Holistic)

    About This Condition

    Prepare yourself to fight the flu. Each year the flu hits millions, sometimes lingering for days, sometimes weeks. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful.
    • Check out vitamin C

      Take at least 100 mg per day to reduce your flu risk

    • Give echinacea a go

      Take 3 to 5 ml of liquid formulas or 300 mg of powdered root supplements three times a day to help clear symptoms faster

    • Try black elderberry

      Taking 4 tablespoons (60 ml) of this herb a day may speed recovery; use 2 tablespoons (30 ml) for children

    About

    About This Condition

    Influenza is the name of a virus and the infection it causes.

    Although for most people the infection is mild, it can be severe and even deadly in those with compromised immune systems, including infants, the elderly, and people with diseases such as cancer and AIDS .

    Huge influenza epidemics in the past have led to careful monitoring of new strains of flu by the World Health Organizations and other national and international groups. In the 2009, a new virus known as the H1N1 ("swine flu") caused international alarm, as healthcare systems attempted to prepare for an epidemic without knowing how to control the virus or how it would run its course. Antivirals were used to help susceptible populations, which were younger than is typical. In its first season, the virus was less severe and caused less mortality than is typical for most influenza outbreaks. Worldwide health organizations continue to keep careful watch, but fortunately, society is much better prepared for a serious flu outbreak than in previous years, due to more supportive medical care available and better ability to more easily coordinate a response to a flu outbreak.

    Some nutritional and herbal recommendations for maintaining healthy immune function are also applicable for treating influenza.

    Symptoms

    Symptoms of influenza include fever, muscle aches, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting. Other symptoms include headache, chills, dry cough, sore throat, pain when moving the eyes, sneezing, and runny nose. The onset of symptoms is often rapid and intense.

    Holistic Options

    Because family stress has been shown to increase the risk of influenza infection ,1 measures to relieve stressful situations may be beneficial.

    Supplements

    What Are Star Ratings?

    Our proprietary "Star-Rating" system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by some in the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.

    For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.

    3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.

    2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.

    1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.

    Supplement Why
    2 Stars
    Echinacea
    3 to 5 ml of liquid formulas or 300 mg of powdered root supplements three times per day
    Learn More

    Echinacea has long been used for colds and flu. Double-blind trials in Germany have shown that infections associated with flu-like symptoms clear more rapidly when people take echinacea.2 Echinacea appears to work by stimulating the immune system . The usual recommended amount of echinacea is 3-5 ml of the expressed juice of the herb or tincture of the herb or root, or 300 mg of dried root powder three times per day.

    Wild indigo contains polysaccharides and proteins that have been reported in test tube studies to stimulate the immune system. The immune-enhancing effect of wild indigo is consistent with its use in traditional herbal medicine to fight the flu.3 However, wild indigo is generally used in combination with other herbs such as echinacea , goldenseal , or thuja.

    2 Stars
    Elderberry
    Adults: 4 Tbsp daily of a syrup containing 38% elderberry extract; children: half a dose (2 Tbsp)
    Learn More

    The effect of a syrup made from the berries of the black elderberry on influenza has been studied in a small double-blind trial.4 People receiving an elderberry extract (four tablespoons per day for adults, two tablespoons per day for children) appeared to recover faster than did those receiving a placebo.

    2 Stars
    Garlic
    2.6 grams per day
    Learn More
    In a double-blind study of healthy volunteers, supplementing with 2.6 grams per day of an aged-garlic extract for 90 days decreased by 58% the number of days on which severe cold or influenza symptoms occurred.5
    2 Stars
    Green Tea Catechins
    Gargle with a liquid extract containing 200 mcg per ml three times per day
    Learn More

    In a preliminary study of elderly nursing home residents in Japan, only 1.3% of those who gargled with a green tea extract three times a day during the winter developed influenza, whereas 10.4% of those who gargled without the green tea extract developed the disease (a statistically significant difference). The presumed active ingredients in the extract were a group of flavonoids called catechins, which were present in the extract at half the concentration as that in green tea.6 It is possible, therefore, that gargling with green tea itself might also be effective for preventing the flu.

    In a double-blind study of healthcare workers, the combination of 378 mg per day green tea catechins and 210 mg per day of theanine (another component of green tea) taken for 5 months reduced the incidence of influenza infection by 69%, when compared with a placebo.7

    2 Stars
    Vitamin C
    100 mg daily
    Learn More

    Dockworkers given 100 mg of vitamin C each day for ten months caught influenza 28% less often than did their coworkers not taking vitamin C. Of those who did develop the flu, the average duration of illness was 10% less in those taking vitamin C than in those not taking the vitamin.8 Other trials have reported that taking vitamin C in high amounts (2 grams every hour for 12 hours) can lead to rapid improvement of influenza infections .9 , 10 Such high amounts, however, should only be used under the supervision of a healthcare professional.

    2 Stars
    Vitamin D
    800 IU per day for two years; then 2,000 IU per day after that
    Learn More

    In a double-blind study, African Americans who received vitamin D supplements for three years had significantly fewer symptoms of influenza or colds, when compared with women who received a placebo. The amount of vitamin D was 800 IU per day for the first two years, followed by 2,000 IU per day for one year.11

    1 Star
    Asian Ginseng
    Refer to label instructions
    Learn More

    Asian ginseng and eleuthero (Siberian ginseng) have immune-enhancing properties, which may play a role in preventing infection with the influenza virus. However, they have not yet been specifically studied for this purpose. One double-blind trial found that co-administration of 100 mg of Asian ginseng extract with a flu vaccine led to a lower frequency of colds and flu compared to people who just received the flu vaccine alone.12

    1 Star
    Boneset
    Refer to label instructions
    Learn More

    Boneset has been shown in test tube and other studies to stimulate immune-cell function,13 which may explain it's traditional use to help fight off minor viral infections, such as the flu.

    Wild indigo contains polysaccharides and proteins that have been reported in test tube studies to stimulate the immune system. The immune-enhancing effect of wild indigo is consistent with its use in traditional herbal medicine to fight the flu.14 However, wild indigo is generally used in combination with other herbs such as echinacea , goldenseal , or thuja.

    1 Star
    Eleuthero
    Refer to label instructions
    Learn More

    Asian ginseng and eleuthero (Siberian ginseng) have immune-enhancing properties, which may play a role in preventing infection with the influenza virus. However, they have not yet been specifically studied for this purpose. One double-blind trial found that co-administration of 100 mg of Asian ginseng extract with a flu vaccine led to a lower frequency of colds and flu compared to people who just received the flu vaccine alone.15

    1 Star
    Goldenseal
    Refer to label instructions
    Learn More

    Wild indigo contains polysaccharides and proteins that have been reported in test tube studies to stimulate the immune system. The immune-enhancing effect of wild indigo is consistent with its use in traditional herbal medicine to fight the flu.16 However, wild indigo is generally used in combination with other herbs such as echinacea , goldenseal , or thuja.

    1 Star
    Meadowsweet
    Refer to label instructions
    Learn More

    While not as potent as willow , which has a higher salicin content, the salicylates in meadowsweet do give it a mild anti-inflammatory effect and the potential to reduce fevers during a cold or flu. However, this role is based on historical use and knowledge of the chemistry of meadowsweet's constituents; to date, no human studies have been completed with meadowsweet.

    1 Star
    Thuja
    Refer to label instructions
    Learn More

    Wild indigo contains polysaccharides and proteins that have been reported in test tube studies to stimulate the immune system. The immune-enhancing effect of wild indigo is consistent with its use in traditional herbal medicine to fight the flu.17 However, wild indigo is generally used in combination with other herbs such as echinacea , goldenseal , or thuja.

    1 Star
    Wild Indigo
    Refer to label instructions
    Learn More

    Wild indigo contains polysaccharides and proteins that have been reported in test tube studies to stimulate the immune system. The immune-enhancing effect of wild indigo is consistent with its use in traditional herbal medicine to fight the flu.18 However, wild indigo is generally used in combination with other herbs such as echinacea , goldenseal , or thuja.

    References

    1. Clover RD, Abell T, Becker LA, et al. Family functioning and stress as predictors of influenza B infection. J Fam Pract 1989;28:535-9.

    2. Braunig B, Dorn M, Limburg E, et al. Echinacea purpurea radix for strengthening the immune response in flu-like infections. Z Phytother 1992;13:7-13 [in German].

    3. Beuscher N, Kopanski L. Stimulation of immunity by the contents of Baptisia tinctoria. Planta Med 1985;5:381-4.

    4. Zakay-Rones Z, Varsano N, Zlotnik M, et al. Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama. J Altern Complement Med 1995;1:361-9.

    5. Nantz MP, Rowe CA, Muller CE, et al. Supplementation with aged garlic extract improves both NK and ?d-T cell function and reduces the severity of cold and flu symptoms: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled nutrition intervention. Clin Nutr 2012;31:337-44.

    6. Yamada H, Takuma N, Daimon T, Hara Y. Gargling with tea catechin extracts for the prevention of influenza infection in elderly nursing home residents: a prospective clinical study. J Altern Complement Med 2006;12:669-72.

    7. Matsumoto K, Yamada H, Takuma N, et al. Effects of green tea catechins and theanine on preventing influenza infection among healthcare workers: a randomized controlled trial. BMC Complement Altern Med 2011;11:15.

    8. Renker K, Wegner S. Vitamin C-Prophylaxe in der Volkswertf Stralsund. Deutsche Gesundheitswesen 1954;9:702-6.

    9. Klenner FR. The treatment of poliomyelitis and other virus diseases with vitamin C. South Med Surg 1949;111:210-4.

    10. Pauling L. Vitamin C, the Common Cold and the Flu. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman & Company, 1976 [review].

    11. Aloia JF, Li-Ng M. Re: epidemic influenza and vitamin D. Epidemiol Infect 2007;135:1095-6.

    12. Scaglione F, Cattaneo G, Alessandria M, Cogo R. Efficacy and safety of the standardized ginseng extract G 115 for potentiating vaccination against common cold and/or influenza syndrome. Drugs Exptl Clin Res 1996;22:65-72.

    13. Woerdenbag HJ, Bos R, Hendriks H. Eupatorium perfoliatum L-the boneset. Z Phytother 1992;13:134-9.

    14. Beuscher N, Kopanski L. Stimulation of immunity by the contents of Baptisia tinctoria. Planta Med 1985;5:381-4.

    15. Scaglione F, Cattaneo G, Alessandria M, Cogo R. Efficacy and safety of the standardized ginseng extract G 115 for potentiating vaccination against common cold and/or influenza syndrome. Drugs Exptl Clin Res 1996;22:65-72.

    16. Beuscher N, Kopanski L. Stimulation of immunity by the contents of Baptisia tinctoria. Planta Med 1985;5:381-4.

    17. Beuscher N, Kopanski L. Stimulation of immunity by the contents of Baptisia tinctoria. Planta Med 1985;5:381-4.

    18. Beuscher N, Kopanski L. Stimulation of immunity by the contents of Baptisia tinctoria. Planta Med 1985;5:381-4.

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