Influenza or flu infections typically involve “fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headaches, chills, loss of appetite, and exhaustion,” and can also involve “nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea” (Lerner & Davidson, 2013, p. 383). The virus most commonly spreads through hand-to-hand contact (Moyad, 2009), as well as through “coughing, sneezing, kissing, and close physical contact” (Lerner & Davidson, 2013, p. 383).
There are many ways to prevent getting the flu, including getting a flu vaccine, the benefits and detriments of which was discussed last week. Herbal protocols are also effective in preventing the flu because they work similarly to vaccines. Some have antiviral properties and directly attack viruses; others stimulate the immune system; and still others reduce symptoms or duration of the virus (Mother Earth News, 2013). Herbal protocols include Echinacea, garlic, green tea, honey, elderberry, Vitamin D3, and yeast, all of which have been successful in preventing the flu. Some basic hygienic and lifestyle prevention practices can also help.
Basic Hygienic Practices
The most effective prevention against influenza is isolation, and avoiding contact with the virus or avoiding close contact with those with the illness. But, this is not realistic. Simple practices are also effective in preventing the disease, such as washing hands frequently, using soap and warm water for 15 to 20 seconds; or using a hand sanitizer in the absence of soap and water (Lerner & Davidson, 2009). Studies have shown that a hand gel with 62% ethyl alcohol was more effective and had higher compliance in children and adults (Moyad, 2009).
Other preventative measures include not swallowing phlegm or nasal drainage, but spitting them out; not sharing utensils with others; washing dishes and utensils in very hot water; cleaning linens and clothing used by the infected person thoroughly; covering the mouth while coughing; disposing used tissues in closed containers; staying home when sick; avoiding crowded places; coughing and sneezing into the elbow; and not touching surfaces that other people have touched (Hirt, 2013; Lerner & Davidson, 2013; Petersen, 2014).
Proper sleep and exercise can boost immunity (Bystrianyk, 2014; Hirt, 2013). The University of Washington tested 115 women over 12 months, where half of the participants stretched for 45 minutes every week, and the other half did 45 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week. Women who exercised regularly got fewer colds than those who just stretched (Hirt, 2013).
Echinacea and Garlic
Echinacea and garlic are curative and effective prophylactics during the flu season, and act as immune modulators and immune stimulants (Abdullah, 2000). In vitro tests showed Echinacea’s constituents, including selenium, germanium, amino acids, lectins, polysaccharides, and vitamins A and C generated immune system responses that enhanced the action and activity of immune defense cells (Abdullah, 2000). A study showed that Echinacea and garlic worked well alone or together when administered as a preventative measure at the beginning of the flu season. In the study, one clove of raw garlic was chewed or minced with honey, and held in the mouth for as long as it could be tolerated, and Echinacea was administered as a tea once daily. In conjunction with reduced smoking and alcohol intake, consumption of garlic and/or Echinacea reduced the incidence of flu (Abdullah, 2000).
Camellia sinensis, green tea, has been found to prevent cold and flu symptoms. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study looked at 108 healthy adults taking green tea capsules versus a placebo, twice a day for 3 months (Rowe, Nantz, Bukowski, & Percival, 2007). They found that those who took green tea capsules had enhanced T cell function, a lower incidence of flu infection, and a shorter duration of infection. Catechins in green tea have been found to have antiviral activity, which help prevent flu infection (Cabrera, Artacho, & Giménez, 2006). Watanabe et al. (2009) studied 51,253 adult men and women over 12 years who consumed C. sinensis in tea form on a regular basis, and concluded that green tea not only lowered the risk of death from pneumonia, but also from influenza. Shin, Kim, Lee, & Seong (2012) studied the action of the green tea solution in vitro and found it be effective against many strains of the flu virus, including avian and swine flu.
- Elderberry prevented the flu by stopping viruses from replicating (Tweed, 2013)
- In vitro antiviral assays on the Nepalese plants Bergnia ciliata, Bergenia ligulata, Anemone rivularis, Verbascum thapsus, Allium oreoprasum, and Androsace strigilosa showed activity against the human influenza A virus H1N1 (Rajbhandari et al., 2009).
- Gargling several times a day with honey was a preventative measure because honey has antimicrobial properties that killed viruses within the oral cavity (Moyad, 2009).
- Daily intake of Vitamin D3 prevented flu and improved recovery from illness at a dosage of 400 IU in children and 800 to 1,000 IU in adults (Moyad, 2009).
- Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a type of yeast, prevented the flu when taken at 500 mg daily (Moyad, 2009). However, it could cause an allergic reaction.
- Lastly, copper and copper allows have antimicrobial properties and can reduce the spread of infection. Selly Oak Hospital in England found that items that were touched frequently and were made of copper including door handles and toilet seats, had 95% less microorganisms than other materials (Hirt, 2013).
It is important to properly educate people on how the influenza virus works and the different alternatives available to prevent infection, including vaccines, herbal protocols, lifestyle modifications, and supplements. Only with the knowledge of all of the alternatives can a person be properly armed to make the best decision on their health.
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Bystrianyk, R. (2014). Effectiveness of the flu vaccine against influenza? Global Reasearch: Center for Research on Globalization. Retrieved from http://www.globalresearch.ca/effectiveness-of-the-flu-vaccine-against-influenza/5376190
Cabrera, C., Artacho, R., & Giménez, R. (2006). Beneficial effects of green tea: a review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 25(2), 79-99.
Hirt, M. (2013). 19 ways to prevent and treat colds and flu. Mother Earth News. Retrieved from http://www.motherearthnews.com/natural-health/colds-and-flu-zm0z12djzhir.aspx#axzz35NYiXVBp
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Rowe, C., Nantz, M., Bukowski, J., & Percival, S. (2007). Specific formulation of camellia sinensis prevents cold and flu symptoms and enhances T cell function: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 26(5), 445-452.
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Watanabe, I., Kuriyama, S., Kakizaki, M., Sone, T., Ohmori-Matsuda, K., Nakaya, N., Hozawa, A., & Tsuji, I. (2009). Green tea and death from pneumonia in Japan: the Ohsaki cohort study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 90, 672-679. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.27599