Immune | September 25, 2017 | Author: Naturopath
2017 has been a particularly bad year for cases of influenza A. While some types of flu cause milder symptoms, others can make you very ill. Symptoms usually begin 2 to 5 days after infection and include muscle aches, soreness, headaches and fever. Certain herbal medicines can relieve symptoms quickly and promote recovery, getting you back on your feet faster.
Flu viruses are grouped into two main categories: Influenza A and influenza B. Influenza-B viruses have two main subtypes while strains of influenza-A are more variable. The main culprits are usually the A/H3N2 or the A/H1NI, which are still ongoing after the “swine flu” pandemic. H3N3 has played a significant role in flu cases over the past 5 years. When it dominates we tend to have larger flu epidemics. H3N3 viruses mutate and change—with new variants emerging within the same flu season.
The use of influenza type A slide tests has made testing more accurate, easier and faster. A nasal swab is taken and tested in a healthcare practitioner’s office or sent to a laboratory.
In children, they may also have nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Influenza A is a bit like a severe cold, only that a cold doesn’t give you aches and pains.
It is important during this time to rest as much as possible. Eat small amounts of easy to digest meals to provide nutrition and boost the function of the immune system. Fresh vegetable juices, herbal teas, broths and soups are all perfect examples. Natural antibiotics foods such as ginger, garlic and onions should be used. Try grating a small amount of ginger and infusing for 5-10 minutes. Mix with some lemon, cinnamon or manuka honey. YEP tea, consisting of yarrow, elderflower and peppermint, can promote sweating and fever which makes the immune system more effective in fighting off infections. Avoid mucus forming foods, especially dairy products as they are thought to exacerbate excessive mucus production.
Taking certain supplements can be beneficial and aid in a speedy recovery. Here’s some to have on hand for when the flu hits your household.
Both these nutrients play important roles in the function of the immune system. They act as antioxidants reducing free radical damage, dropping inflammation and stimulating the body to fight off viruses. It is estimated that zinc deficiency affects 1 in 5 people worldwide contributing to a significant increase in infections, including the flu.
Another common deficiency in Australia… despite being a sunburnt country. Vitamin D is derived from UV exposure and is stored in the body in preparation for times of less sunlight exposure, such as winter.
It has been hypothesised that we are more prone to influenza because of lowered vitamin D stores during this time. Vitamin D is not only important for healthy bones but it plays a significant role in our immune system, helping to increase our resistance to infection. One study found that supplementation with 1200IU per day of vitamin D for 4 months in Japanese school children was associated with a decreased risk in seasonal influenza A. An additional study found a lower rate of influenza and upper respiratory tract infections in individuals taking 2000IU per day.
In Western herbal medicine, echinacea is one of the most widely used botanicals for influenza. It helps to enhance the function of the immune system to kill off viruses. An article published in the Virology Journal found that an extract of echinacea purpurea inactivated the human H1N1-type1V, as well as highly pathogenic avian HPA1V and swine origin 1V. Echinacea interfered with the way the virus entered into cells. When compared to osteltamivi (an antiviral medication), echinacea didn’t produce any resistant viruses.
Both the leaves and berries of sambucus nigra are used in herbal medicine. Elderberries have strong activity against influenza viruses, including type A. Additional actions include its ability to promote sweating, reduce free radical damage and clear nasal mucus. A preliminary study found that elderberry reduced severity and length of flu symptoms when given at the first sign of infection. Compliance in children is high with this great-tasting herb, which is usually available as a syrup.
Both these herbs have been used for centuries in herbal medicine and are a popular choice for upper respiratory tract infections. Numerous clinical trials have confirmed that andrographis alone or in combination with Siberian ginseng can reduce the symptoms of an upper respiratory infection or prevent it in the first place. Low doses are effective in prevention, while high doses at the first sign of infection will yield more effective results.
Hechtman L (2014). Clinical Naturopathic Medicine. Churchill Livingstone, Australia
Urashima M, Segawa T, Okazaki M, Kurihara M, Wada Y, Ida H. Randomized trial of vitamin D supplementation to prevent seasonal influenza A in schoolchildren. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 May; 91(5):1255-60
Pleschka S, et al. Anti-viral properties and mode of action of standardized Echinacea purpurea extract against highly pathogenic avian Influenza virus (H5N1, H7N7) and swine-origin H1N1 (S-OIV). Virol J. 2009; 6: 197.
Kraitz C, et al. Inhibitory activity of a standardized elderberry liquid extract against clinically-relevant human respiratory bacterial pathogens and influenza A and B viruses. MC Complement Altern Med. 2011; 11: 16