We’ve all heard about the H1N1 influenza virus and other nasty bugs circulating at schools and offices. Many clinics and drugstores are offering flu shots. These can be very helpful, but for those of us who experience side effects, the prevention is almost worse than the disease. Some people experience severe pain and flu-like symptoms. Neurologists warn people to watch out for signs of narcolepsy and Guillain-Barre Syndrome after getting a flu shot, and some doctors now advise parents not to get shots for children under 5. Are there natural ways to keep ourselves from getting the flu, and how can we fight it off if we do catch it?
The best way to fight the flu is to avoid getting it in the first place. Flu season in the United States varies by region, but generally begins in late October and ends in late April.
To protect and strengthen your immune system, take vitamin C. It is safe to take large doses of this vitamin, and some people buy it in powdered form to stir into fruit juice. Everyone needs a different amount at different times. To determine the amount you need, keep increasing the amount until you start to get diarrhea, then back off by a gram or two until it stops. An antioxidant vitamin formula is essential. Take it faithfully every day. You should also increase the amount of fresh fruit in your diet, especially citrus.
Goldenseal is another herb that strengthens the immune system. Country people know it as a blood purifier and a popular ingredient in spring tonic teas, with a clean bitter taste. Watercress, dandelion greens and flowers and nettle leaves are also good.
Find some pleasantly flavored zinc lozenges and eat them as candy. Chocolate and peanuts also contain zinc. Don’t forget echinacea. Drink two or three cups of echinacea tea daily or take it in capsules. Stay out of crowded public places and avoid people who are coughing or sneezing. Carry hand sanitizer with you and use it frequently. Drink at least eight cups of water per day.
If You Get The Flu
Even if you’re careful, you might get the flu anyway. The moment you start to feel tired or lethargic, nausea, headache, sore throat, aches and pains or a tightness in your chest, increase your water intake and your doses of vitamin C and zinc. Go to bed and rest. Keep taking your echinacea and antioxidant vitamins and drink green tea and orange juice freely. For aches and pains two highly recommended herbs are skullcap and willow bark, either in capsules or as tea. Ginger tea fights nausea as does peppermint.
For ginger tea, use five or six teaspoons of grated fresh ginger or slice off five or six pieces about the size of a quarter. Add a cinnamon stick and a bit of honey if desired. Simmer in a cup of water for ten or fifteen minutes, let cool, strain and drink. This is a wonderful winter drink even when you’re not sick.
Don’t eat too much at a time and stay away from milk. Try Popsicles made from fruit juice. Eat things like toast, bananas, apples or apple sauce, and drink V8. Eat cream of rice or whole rice to stop diarrhea.
Chicken soup’s healing properties are no myth. Chicken broth helps to break up mucus, the steam is very soothing, and the vegetables provide important nutrients and immune-strengthening phenols. Try to make your own homemade chicken soup with organic kosher chicken if you can.
Fever is the body’s response to invasion and is usually not a problem. Keep well hydrated and warmly covered. If a fever lasts for more than a few days or becomes extremely high, try chrysanthemum, lemon balm, calendula, meadowsweet or basil tea. Hot steaming baths or showers will help with pain and clear up mucus. You can put soothing herbs such as chamomile, calendula, eucalyptus and rosemary in your bath water. There are even herbal bath preparations especially for colds and flu.
Most of all, get plenty of rest. Don’t try to do too much, even as you start to feel better. In the old days, people said “Sleep is the best doctor”.