Herbs for the Flu, Tested By Science

It is getting to be time that we all get a bit more sophisticated about the flu, what with the Avian flu fears looming as a possible global pandemic. Vaccinations, antiviral drugs and pharmaceuticals are not the focus of this article, but finding effective herbs to help combat the illness is.

A flu and cold are often difficult to differentiate, but a flu is usually worse. Symptoms include a fever with chills, runny nose, cough, headache, and a feeling of malaise or tiredness. Although the most acute symptoms usually subside within three days, symptoms such as weakness and coughing may persist for ten days. Even though the flu is typically self-limiting, serious complications can arise in the very young or the elderly or those with a preexisting disease.

Two herbs have stood the test of science as being effective against the flu. Find out which ones, here:

The ideal approach to the flu is, of course, prevention. This might be accomplished by improving the immune system, especially in the fall as flu season approaches. Several studies have shown that astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous) extracts can stimulate the immune system. Use astragalus as an extract or add the root to soups.

If you do get the flu, here are two herbs shown to help reduce the severity of the illness.

1. Elder (Sambucus nigra) has a tradition of use for the treatment of colds and flu and has stood the test of science. The flowers from this plant have demonstrated antiviral activity against both influenza types A and B, as well as herpes simplex virus type 1. It also possesses anti-inflammatory activity.

A clinical study showed that a standardized elderberry extract, Sambucol, improved the symptoms of influenza with a complete recovery in two to three days, compared to a six-day recovery period for the group not receiving the herb. In this study patients were diagnosed with influenza type B. Elder may act by stimulating the body’s own interferon or by preventing attachment of the virus to the body’s surfaces.

2. Licorce root has also demonstrated antiviral activity. When mice infected with lethal doses of influenza virus were treated with glycyrrhizin, an active component of licorice, they were protected from death due to the virus and had less lung damage than did mice treated with saline controls.

Adapted from The Antibiotic Alternative: The Natural Guide to Fighting Infection and Maintaining a Healthy Immune System by Cindy L. A. Jones, Ph.D. (Inner Traditions, 2000). Copyright (c) 2000 by Cindy L.A> Jones. Reprinted by permission of Inner Traditions.
Adapted from The Antibiotic Alternative: The Natural Guide to Fighting Infection and Maintaining a Healthy Immune System by Cindy L. A. Jones, Ph.D. (Inner Traditions, 2000).

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Jennifer C.
Past Member 4 years ago

Great info. Thanks.

Sophia W.
Sophia W.5 years ago

good to know

Jeanne W.
Jeanne W.6 years ago

In the article cited by Benoneya Business, there is no mention of Swine Flu or H1N1. The article discusses the herbal remedies for Bird Flu, H5N1. If it is true that you should not use elderberry and licorice for Swine Flu, I would like to see articles concerning it. The article in question was written in 2006, long before the appearance of the current Swine Flu.

Benoneya Business

Elderberry products and echinacea, as well as a few other herbs and supplements, are NOT recommended for use with Swine flu, because they can cause cytokine storms in the immune system. The swine flu acts differently in the system than other flu viruses.

Here's a link to an article about it: http://www.the-health-gazette.com/health-gazette-blog/alternative-medicine/natural-antivirals

Herbs and supplements are wonderful, and I use a variety of different herbs and supplements myself, but please do some research first, or consult a knowledgeable naturopath, or herbalist, before you use herbs for specific things. Natural and effective does not mean that they can't harm if used for the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Debrah Roemisch
Debrah Roemisch6 years ago

i am happy to see this article--I just posted on the swine flu topic about this. Elderberry is VERY effective. I have other suggestions--read my post on it.

Leisa D.
Leisa D.7 years ago

When my son contracted an unknown viruses that had him sick for weeks tradional medicine didn't help at all. As soon as I started giving him elderberry extract (and it tasted a lot better than anything the doc tried) he started getting better. I found it at the health food store

Heidi Keitz
Heidi Keitz7 years ago

mmmm yummy

Debbie C.
Debbie C.8 years ago

Licorice root? Might try it!

Reen Brust
Past Member 8 years ago

Elder looks like a good thing. Where would one find it?

Karen Atkinson
Gregg G.8 years ago

I take echinecea when a cold starts.My husband seems to be getting colds only lately--which he never did for over 20 yrs--and with echinecea, he is better almost right away.