Stay Healthy and Robust throughout the Winter
Every winter, hundreds of thousands of people get the flu. It can put us out of commission for quite some time, so it is wise to start thinking about an effective prophylaxis already now. Nature has a vast array of healing plants at our disposal to help protect us effectively from the flu & co.
But it is important not to wait too long before leaping into action. If you want to get through the winter without a cold, then start strengthening your immune system already in the fall!
Weare not completely at the mercy of cold and flu viruses. Nature has an abundance of herbs to help us fight them
The winter is high season for colds, coughs and sneezes, because our body takes it easy in this time of year – the human organism goes into a hibernation-like state. Many functions slow down, including our circulation. We shiver and get tired easier. It is no wonder then that bacteria and viruses have an easy time attacking our organism!
Reason enough to strengthen our body’s defenses well in advance…
Flu Shot: Yes or No?
The influenza virus vaccination is often controversial, because the viruses change from year to year.
In these economically tough times, employees cannot afford to stay in bed for a few days when they get the flu. Instead of giving our body’s own defenses enough time to conquer the germs like we did in times past, conventional medicine recommends we get the flu shot.
But the flu shot does not guarantee 100 % protection. Because of the enormous variability of flu viruses, new vaccines have to be developed for each season. So the vaccine always “lags” behind by a season. To be on the safe side, the standard vaccination includes three strains (2 group A and 1 group B). But even if the body has developed its own defenses against a
particular type of virus, this does not by any means suggest that those defenses are effective against a different type from the same family.
The main concern is that the vaccination will create antibodies against one specific type of virus only. But it won’t stimulate the general immune powers of the organism.
On the other hand, natural flu protection is not just aimed at the virus, but at strengthening and rehabilitating the human organism as a whole, so that flu viruses don’t get the chance to spread out.
Why the Flu Shot can’t protect you 100 %
The illness called “influenza” (derived from the Latin influere = creeping in) was already described in 400 B.C. by the famous physician Hippocrates. But the actual cause of the flu (French: gripper = to catch), the virus, was discovered only in 1933 by the Englishman Wilson Smith.
After finding the pathogen, it was thought that a vaccine could be used to combat the virus. But it soon became evident that there are many, many flu viruses (there are 300 of them which we know of to date – they are divided into the different subtypes A, B and C) which change from year to year, that is, they mutate.
This means that the virus that existed in the previous year does not reappear in the same form in the following year. Even if there are only tiny changes in the virus, then the protection from the vaccine is decreased accordingly. For the manufacturers of the flu vaccines, this means that the viruses constantly need to be checked for their mutations.
The new viruses are documented by the way, by the World Health Organization (WHO). These include the Asian flu due to type A (H2N2) beginning in 1957, the Hong Kong Flu due to type A (H3N2) beginning in 1968, and the Russian flu due to type A(Hh1N1) beginning in 1977.
Is it the Flu or is it a Cold?
Cold and flu symptoms can be very similar to each other. Therefore, often a bad cold is mistaken for the flu. Colds are caused by rhinoviruses or adenoviruses, of which there are more than 100 known types. They are based in the nose (runny nose) or in the throat (angina, hoarseness). Generally, colds are harmless and last no longer than 7 days. Colds are much more common than influenza.
Typical signs of influenza are the sudden appearance of complaints which are more serious than those of a regular cold. You go to bed healthy at night and the next morning you feel worn out and exhausted. This sudden appearance is as much a sign of the flu as is a high fever, chills, runny nose, cough, aching limbs, sore throat and headache.
The illness is transmitted from person to person by droplet infection (Myxovirus influenza) – through sneezing, talking or coughing. A person that sneezes squirts the little droplets out of his or her nose at a speed of approx. 160 km/h, spreading the viruses to the whole area. But only those who have weakened immune powers will catch them. If your body’s defenses are
intact, then you can generally fend off the invasion of viruses.
How the body defends itself against the viruses
One of the body’s first immune responses to the flu is a fever. This is nature’s sophisticated way of immediately turning up the inner thermostat of the human organism when attacked by germs and disease agents. Because both viruses and bacteria are sensitive to the heat. Additionally, the heat stimulates the immune system. And it opens the pores in the skin, allowing
for toxins to be released from the body through sweating. This is why a fever should not be suppressed right away! Coughing and a runny nose make sense too: Flu and cold viruses cause inflammatory processes in the mucous membranes. If the bronchi are affected, then the mucous membranes will produce more secretions to trap the viruses. By coughing, the invaders are catapulted out of the body. If the viruses find their way into the nasal mucosa, then here, too, mucous is secreted. With the runny nose, they are flushed right out of the organism.
So the fever, cough, sweating and runny nose are not illnesses, but the body’s natural efforts to free itself of pathogens and their metabolic slags. If you choose to suppress this natural defense mechanism of the body by taking antibiotics, nasal drops, fever reducing medication, codeine syrup for anaesthetization of the cough centre in the brain, etc., then you are
not only paralyzing your body’s natural defenses, but burdening the system additionally with the side effects from these drugs.
Therefore, let’s allow our body to express and heal itself through symptoms. They need to be eased merely if they have persisted for several days or if the body is extremely burdened or stressed by serious illness (cardiovascular disease, asthma, diabetes, renal dysfunction, etc.). Do consult your doctor if the fever exceeds 39.5 degrees, if there is tachycardia or cardiac arrhythmia. Also, if you are suffering from a persistent cough and respiratory distress (risk of pneumonia), or if the symptoms are accompanied by a headache with vomiting, sensitivity to light and stiffness of the neck.
If you experience a sudden high fever, runny nose, chills
and aching limbs in the morning, then you have probably caught a flu virus.
Cold and flu viruses are transmitted by sneezing, coughing
and shaking hands, but also via door knobs.
your doctor if the fever exceeds 39.5 deg.
Homeopathic treatment of Influenza
Interestingly, there has been almost no public discussion on the effectiveness of homeopathic medicines in the treatment of influenza. Homeopathy was used with great success in the United States to treat patients during the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918 – 1919.
In 1921, the Journal of the American Institute of Homeopathy published a paper by Dr. W. A. Dewey on the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918-1919 entitled “Homeopathy in Influenza – A Chorus of Fifty in Harmony”. In it, he gathered information from several doctors who treated patients for the flu. If you used homeopathy, 4 % died, if you didn’t, 68 % died.
Generally, there will be 1 – 5 homeopathic remedies that are most effective for each epidemic. This group of remedies is called the genus epidemicus. They are chosen after careful observation of several cases early in the epidemic. The selection is based on the patterns that emerge once the common symptoms of those early cases are compiled. The genus epidemicus for each epidemic will likely be different from the groups of remedies that were useful in the previous epidemics, which makes it difficult to speculate exactly which homeopathic remedies will work best in the likely event of another influenza epidemic. However, homeopaths now have the ability to communicate directly with other homeopaths all over the world, which enables us to work much more quickly, efficiently and accurately than ever before.
Of course, the best homeopathic remedy for the flu or any other illness is always your constitutional remedy. This is a remedy carefully selected by your homeopath based on the
totality of your symptoms. It is completely individualized to your unique pattern of symptoms. The treatment is very in depth as it incorporates not only your physical complaints, but your mental and emotional states as well. Having a constitutional remedy is very beneficial as it can be used to treat both acute and chronic complaints. I would be happy to discuss this option further with you and answer your questions in a free 15 minute information session. Just call the clinic to book your appointment for this complimentary session, or to book you acute or constitutional treatment: (519) 603-0505.
Fat chance for the Flu when you have a healthy Immune System
It is the job of natural medicines to support the body in such a way that it can fend off any germs and disease agents on its own. In this way, it will come out stronger after contracting a virus and will stay protected against new infections. We are not helplessly at the mercy of these viruses! If that were the case, then the human race would have died out long ago. Therefore, the power of our body’s own defenses is crucial in deciding whether or not we will be in bed with the flu this winter. If you start your prophylaxis early, then your chances of getting through the cold season healthy are good. The fall is the best time to start!
Important: a healthy Gut flora
One of the most important prerequisites for a strong immune system is always an intact gut flora. Because the physiologic gut bacteria have antiviral capabilities in that they form proteolytic enzymes in order to prevent germs from spreading. On the other hand, the intestinal walls are sealed off by the bacterial flora so that no viruses can get into the body from
But many people have an abnormal gut flora, be it for reasons of nutritional deficiencies – particularly due to excessive consumption of sugar or meat, or from medications (antibiotics). This manifests in conditions such as putrefaction, flatulence, diarrhea or constipation, or fungal infestations in the digestive tract. If you want your influenza prophylaxis to be effective, then check first into the condition of your gut based on the above symptoms. To make sure that the preventive measures are not for nothing.
What you can do to restore the gut is to simply have 1 – 2 tbsp. of fresh, uncooked Sauerkraut before meals 3 times per day. Or drink a good organic Sauerkraut juice. If the thought of this makes you cringe, then come in to pick up a good probiotic or prebiotic instead.
Virus protection owing to the Power of Plants
Up until recently, we thought that there was no cure for viruses. But meanwhile, various healing plants have been proven to prevent the spread of flu viruses while mobilizing
the body’s own defenses at the same time. Some examples include melissa, thyme, eucalyptus, cinnamon, cloves and pepper, which contain terpenes in their essential oil content. Particularly the use of specific healing plants rich in terpenes offers excellent protection against viral diseases.
Nourish your body with Fresh, Vital Foods
It is basically understood that a successful flu prophylaxis be accompanied by a healthy lifestyle. After all, how is our body’s own defense system supposed to work if we neglect vital foods? A well-balanced, full-fledged diet with lots of raw fruits and vegetables is an effective barrier against disease-causing germs. Furthermore, products containing vitamin
C are extremely important: Oranges, lemons, mango, sea buckthorn, kiwi, etc. – to bring the body’s own defenses up to speed.
A home-made smoothie with mango, oranges, lemon and kiwi is not only trendy, but
brings your body’s own defenses up to speed
Vitamin A is important too, since it keeps the mucous membranes intact and protects them against drying out. A good source of vitamin A is cod liver oil (2 x 1 capsule after meals). Also, zinc, which is contained in wheat germ, boosts the immune system. And you can support the protective measures even further by using more spices. Therefore, now is the time to add
onions, garlic, thyme, horseradish, radish and cress to your diet!
Horseradish should not be missing from any diet in the cold
season. Its essential oils are antibacterial and good for both the nasal mucosa
and paranasal sinuses.
How to successfully increase your body’s resistance
It is also important to strengthen yourself. Because the cold and damp weather affects the body’s own defenses, it is necessary to train the body for extreme temperature conditions. You can do this by taking contrast showers every morning – first warm, then cold, about 5 consecutive times. To improve your circulation, brush massages, sauna or steam baths are great. If you have chronically cold feet, have daily foot soaks with mustard powder (1 – 2 tbsp. of mustard added to 38 degree C water. Soak feet for 15 minutes and rinse off with cold water afterwards.)
Regular usage of the sauna trains your heart and circulation. The body will be more
resistant to colds.
A warm foot soak in the evening is an old renowned home remedy to help prevent
As well, make sure not to overheat your home and work space. The ideal temperature should be 20 degrees. 16 degrees in the bedroom is enough (18 – 20 degrees for children). Using a vaporizer in the areas where you spend most of your time is a good idea because the furnace can dry out the air. A few drops of eucalyptus oil or spruce needle oil added to the vaporizer on a daily basis can also be helpful.
And hygiene plays a big role in flu prophylaxis: Wash your hands regularly with soap and water.
Washing your hands after using public transportation or touching doorknobs can reduce
the risk of transmittal of viruses.
Sneeze or cough into your elbow, use disposable tissues and as the case may be, reduce close contact to other persons. Lastly, regular time spent outdoors in fresh air and in the sun is essential. Because this stimulates the body’s own immunizing capabilities. For proof, just look to the Southern countries – people living with more days of sun get sick with the flu less
often than those living in the North.
Make it a part of your routine too, to spend several hours per week exercising outside in the fresh air: Walking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, etc. And breathe deeply, relaxing right down to your smallest toe, during these activities. Because your emotional wellbeing also contributes to your getting through the winter healthy and happily.
Healing Plants with strong Powers of Influenza Protection
Nature has a treasure of healing plants for us and a number of them have proven to be quite effective in preventing colds and flus. The medicinal herbs are chosen according to individual constitution. The flu protection plants listed here can be used in the form of herbal teas or homeopathic tinctures dissolved in a little water which are kept in the mouth
for a short while and then swallowed.
- Black Elder (Sambucus nigra)
The blossom tea helps children and adults who are prone to recurring catarrhs and fevers. The
healing plant strengthens their immune system – it is antiviral and
anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, expectorant and detoxifying.
Poplar / Cottonwood (Populus nigra)
The buds of the black poplar survive the winter in a
leathery protection coat that is lined on the inside with resin. This tough,
red-brown and fragrant composite protects the delicate offshoots during the
cold season against bacteria, fungal and pest infections. With the spring’s
first sun rays, the buds burst open and the resinous liquid trickles out,
attracting bees who then collect the goo and carry it to the beehive as a
disease repellent remedy.
The black poplar bud resin contains phenolic compounds such
as styrax, ferulic, coumar and cinnamic acid with strong immune-stimulating,
bactericidal, virostatic and antifungal powers. In botanical medicine, this
natural substance is used to prepare a tincture that is used for influenza prophylaxis in people susceptible
to infections in the respiratory and urinary tracts. By stabilizing the
inflammatory diseases, a person’s tendency to flu-like infections is remedied
at the same time.
Blossoms and leaves of the cistus contain polyphenols and
glycosides with a highly detoxifying, anti-inflammatory, bacteriostatic and
defense stimulating power. They can be taken as a precautionary measure by
people who react to colds and flus with lymphatic
congestion (swollen neck glands). The improvement in the lymphatic flow has
been proven many times over.
agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum)
The herb and blossoms contain essential oils with terpines,
cymen and thymol which have an anti-inflammatory, immune stimulating and
anti-infective effect. Using hemp agrimony as a flu prophylactic (herbal tea or
drops) helps people who suffer from a general battered feeling and pains in the limbs and bones.
(Ilex aquifolium )
While the coral red fruits of the holly are poisonous, the
leaves of Ilex are curative. They contain triterpenes, ilex acid and flavonoids
which counter-act catarrhs of the lungs. A three week regimen using holly
leaves is beneficial for persons whose influenza
is accompanied by a catarrh of the
lungs, sharp pain in the lungs (see your doctor!) and fever. The plant has an outstanding reputation to reduce cold
and flu symptoms, as seen in the outbreak of the Spanish flu in 1918.
sweet (Filipendula ulmaria)
The blossoms of the meadow sweet contain natural Salicin. As
such, it is a natural “aspirin”. Meadow sweet blossoms act as an analgesic,
anti-inflammatory, antipyretic and immune stimulant. Taken as tea or in drops,
the healing plant is a proven flu prophylactic for persons who often catch colds and infections after exposure to damp
and cold weather. The sensitivity to chilly wet atmospheric conditions can
be remedied with the meadow sweet.
- Dense-flowered Mullein (Verbascum densiflorum)
Its blossoms contain verbascosaponines, iridoides and
flavonoids, which have the property to relieve chronic irritation of the
throat. It is suitable for persons who are weakened due to chronic infections
of the respiratory tract and have little resistance to the flu. The blossom tea
strengthens a person’s immunity and removes inflammatory irritations in the throat and pharynx often connected
with continued tickle in the throat (irritable cough), hawking, laryngitis and
leaf Linden (Tilia cordata)
At the University of Chicago, the physicians Dr. Hardy and
Dr. Traismann compared the effectiveness of the linden blossom for flu-like
illnesses to that of antibiotics. 55 children sick with the flu were prescribed
bed rest and linden blossom tea. A second group of 67 children received exclusively
antibiotics. The surprising result: The children treated with bed rest and
linden blossom tea got healthy faster and without complications. Reason enough
to drink linden flower tea once per day for a general prophylaxis against flu-like infections, ideally up to 1
liter per day. The well-tasting drink warms, relaxes, strengthens and
detoxifies the body, and alleviates mild irritations and infections in the
The root contains etheric oil with pinene , phellandren and
limones as well as furanocumarine, which have strong immune strengthening
properties. Masterwort is a flu prophylactic for persons whose bodies have weakened defenses against viruses and
bacteria. They constantly catch colds and often the flu from just the
slightest exposure to cold. The healing plant can be recommended as a
successful remedy for strengthening the immune system.
- Pimpinella major
This root is recommended for weakened, exhausted, worn out people who do not have a lot of
vitality. Because of their debilitating condition, they have a tendency to
develop flu-like conditions with bronchitis, cough, throat infection,
hoarseness and laryngitis. Pimpinella strengthens the body’s own resistance of
these persons and helps them to attain a new sense of wellbeing.
Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus)
The Siberian ginseng is referred to as an adaptogen in
phytotherapy. That is, as a healing plant which enables us to better adapt to
the burdening conditions of the environment, it abolishes stressful situations
and mobilizes the body’s own defenses against viruses and bacteria.
The root used as a tea or tincture helps those who are prone to catch the flu due to stress and
over-activity. The root was studied
scientifically by Prof. Dr. J. J. Brekhman of Russia and he was able to verify
the active ingredients – adaptogens (eleutheroside A, B, B1, C, D/E) a type of
glycoside, as well as oleanolglycoside (Eleuteroside I, K, L, M). They have an
immune stimulating, building, vitalizing and nerve strengthening effect. For
people affected by stress, the Siberian ginseng is the universal remedy for
prophylaxis of the cold and flu.
- Spruce (picea abies)
The young shoots with their content of essential oils
(limones, pinenes, borneol, bornyl acetate) help persons whose breathing capability
is impaired (compromised). They are prone
to develop a catarrh of the respiratory airway and infections of the mucous
membranes within the whole respiratory system. The spruce has the power to revitalize
and renew the halted breath.
To date, the wild thyme is a highly desired healing herb, used
An old saying goes: “The next flu will come in due time, but not to
Thymus pulegioides can be taken for three consecutive weeks as a tea
The violet with its fragrant essential oils (parmon,
zingiberen, isoborneo and curcument) is particularly well suited for children
who easily get sick with the cold after exposure to cold temperatures. A tea
made from the healing plant has proven to be an effective, fragrant preventive measure for flu-like infections
All of these great helpers can be very effective in
protecting you against colds and flus, but it is also important to consider
constitution. There is not one remedy or therapy or treatment that’s
equally effective for everyone’s cold or illness. Therefore, the choice of your
natural remedy must be matched to your individual symptom picture. This brings
me back to homeopathy, because a homeopathic
constitutional remedy will do just that. It will focus on what is specific
about you, what makes your complaints
different from the next person’s. Your constitutional remedy is very powerful
because it works holistically, taking into account all of your other complaints too. I would be more
than happy to answer your questions on homeopathy or this article in a
complimentary 15 minute information session. Call the clinic today to book your
appointment: (519) 603-0505.
In good health,
Irene Schwens, C. Tran., DHMHS
Owner / Homeopath