Natural remedies for flu

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The distinct chill we’ve had in the air of late will inevitably herald the usual seasonal influx of cold and flu. Lest we forget that such wintry infections are on their way, the Government recently launched a high profile media campaign urging those at high risk of flu to get vaccinated against it. However, the very same week that the Government made this push, it also suspended the licence of a major flu vaccine manufacturer because of problems with sterility. The shortage of stocks and delays this is anticipated to cause is likely to needle a fair few individuals keen to protect themselves from virulent infections this winter.

It occurred to me that unfortunates who find themselves without the protection of flu vaccination may be glad to know of contingency medicaments from out of the natural medicine chest. Such remedies may also, of course, be of value to those who are not deemed suitable candidates for vaccination, or who simply refuse it altogether. The natural substance perhaps most renowned for its anti-viral and immune-stimulating properties is vitamin C. Despite the fact that vitamin C is often recommended for its ability to prevent colds and flu, the science shows that it is quite ineffective for this purpose. On the plus side, however, high doses of this nutrient have considerable healing potential once the flu virus has set up camp in the body.

In one study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapy the effect of mega-dosing with vitamin C was tested in a group of over 700 individuals. Throughout the course of a winter, about two-thirds of the test group were treated with painkillers and decongestants should they fall foul of cold or flu. In the remaining third, winter infections were treated with vitamin C at a dose of 1000 mg (1 g) each hour for six hours, followed by 1000 mg three times a day until the infection resolved. Overall, those receiving vitamin C treatment had cold and flu symptoms reduced by 85 per cent compared to those receiving conventional treatment. High dose vitamin C may loosen the bowels, though this effect invariably resolves once the dose is suitably reduced.

Another natural flu remedy is the black elderberry (Sambucus nigra L.). In the laboratory, black elderberry extract has been shown to incapacitate several strains of the influenza virus, and studies show that it activates the immune system and helps it mount a more effective defence against invading organisms. In a piece of research published earlier this year in the Journal of International Medical Research, the effects of black elderberry extract were tested in a group of individuals afflicted by flu. Half the group were treated with 15 mls of black elderberry extract, four times day for five days, while the other half took a placebo. Those taking the black elderberry extract became well an average four days earlier than individuals taking inactive medication. Black elderberry extract is available from most health food stores under the brand name Sambucol. This comes in a variety of forms including one for children. For those wishing to take a belt and braces approach, I recommend taking deploying vitamin C and black elderberry extract together. In practice, this combination has proved to be a potent weapon for those engaged in germ warfare.

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