Natural Remedies for Influenza

The symptoms experienced during the flu are the body's natural attempt to eliminate the infection. For example, the body raises its temperature (i.e., produces a fever) high enough to kill the infecting organism and increases mucus production to soothe irritated tissues that have become inflamed due to the immune system's response.

The goal of naturopathic treatment is to work with the body's defense mechanisms by enhancing the immune system rather than suppress the flu symptoms with analgesics and cough medications. So, when treating with natural therapeutics, flu symptoms may temporarily worsen, but the duration of the illness will probably be shorter and secondary infections may be reduced or prevented. It is not necessary to use every suggestion to treat the flu; any combination will help.

Flu & Nutrition

Nutrition is the key to a healthy immune system. During the flu, the body's energy is best used to deal with the virus. So, at the first sign of the flu, reduce the amount of food eaten. A liquid fast reroutes the body's energy from digestion to fortification.

  • Eat lightly. Let your body's energy go toward eliminating the virus instead of digesting food.
  • Drink plenty of water, herbal tea, diluted vegetable juice, and soup. Do not drink fruit juices, dairy, coffee, alcohol, or soda.
  • Limit sugar intake. Sugar intake depresses the immune system.

Flu & Dietary Supplements

  • Betacarotene—200,000 IUs daily
  • Bioflavonoids—1000 mg daily
  • Garlic—3 cloves of garlic per day or 2-3 capsules or tablets 3 times daily
  • Vitamin A—25,000 IUs daily (do not take more than 5000 IU daily if pregnant)
  • Vitamin C—500–1000 mg every 2 hour
  • Zinc—one zinc lozenge containing 23 mg of zinc every 2 hours

Flu & Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicines rarely have significant side effects when used appropriately and at suggested doses. Occasionally, an herb at the prescribed dose causes stomach upset or headache. This may reflect the purity of the preparation or added ingredients, such as synthetic binders or fillers. For this reason, it is recommended that only high-quality products be used. As with all medications, more is not better and overdosing can lead to serious illness and death.

These herbs are often used to treat flu symptoms:

  • Astragalus (Astragulus membranaceus)—Used as an antiviral, an antiinflammatory, an immunomodulator, and an antioxidant
  • Echinacea (Echinacea spp.)—Used as an antiviral, an antiinflammatory, and an immunomodulator
  • Hyssop (Hyssop officinalis)—Used as an antiviral, an immunomodulator, and an expectorant
  • Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)—Used as an antiviral, an antiinflammatory, and an immunomodulator
  • Lomatium (Lomatium dissectum)—Used as an antiviral, specifically for hard to treat respiratory tract infections
  • Osha (Ligusticum porteri)—Supports the immune system and indicated for viral respiratory illness with copious amounts of mucus and congestion
  • Oregon Grape (Mahonia spp.)—Used as an astringent, an antimicrobial, an anti-inflammatory, an antioxidant, and it supports the immune system
  • St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum)—Used as an antiviral and an anti-inflammatory

Flu & Homeopathy

The standard dosage for acute symptom relief is 3 pellets of 30C every 4 hours until symptoms resolve. If the right remedy is chosen, symptoms should improve shortly after the second dose. If there is no improvement after 3 doses, a different remedy is given. The following remedies have been shown to be effective in acute, symptomatic relief of the flu:

  • Aconite—Indicated for a chill after cold, dry wind exposure, restlessness, and fear
  • Bryonia—Indicated for symptoms that worsen with movement; dry cough, mouth, and lips; thirst for large quantities of water; and wanting to be left alone
  • Eupatorium perfoliatum—Indicated for a deep aching in bones and muscles, and if the eyes feel sore
  • Ferrum phosphorium—Indicated when a person feels they are coming down with something, but there are no symptoms yet
  • Gelsemium—Indicated for exhaustion, achy muscles, and getting sick after a frightening experience
  • Hepar sulph—Indicated when very sensitive to pain
  • Oscillococcinum—This is a combination product available in health food stores; use at the first sign of the flu
  • Pyrogen—Indicated for having to move even though it is painful to do so, mucus discharge, and feeling bruised and sore

Flu & Hydrotherapy

  • Castor oil pack
  • Constitutional hydro
  • Heating compress to feet or throat
  • Steam bath or sauna

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 02 Jan 2001

Last Modified: 17 Nov 2014