Conventionally trained healthcare professionals don’t have much to offer for symptoms of the flu besides bed rest, adequate liquids to prevent dehydration, and over-the-counter medications such as pain relievers and decongestants. These standard recommendations help a little with managing flu symptoms, but so can naturopathy treatment. Plus, natural therapies can do more than just manage symptoms; they can help your body heal faster by boosting your immune system as well as killing the virus itself. Naturopathic doctors are trained to treat flu symptoms with botanical medicines, hydrotherapy, nutrients, and more. What follows is a brief review of symptoms of the flu along with the naturopathy treatment commonly used to address each flu symptom.
Symptoms of the flu and the corresponding naturopathy treatment
The onset of flu symptoms can occur suddenly over the course of a day, or progress more slowly over the course of several days. Flu symptoms can vary quite a bit between individuals; however, they usually include many of the following:
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- Cough –may initially be minimal but frequently progresses over the course of a few days and can last 2 weeks or more and may cause chest pain and difficulty breathing. Naturopathic remedies for coughs often include strong decoctions of herbs known to help calm and soothe coughs, such as hyssop, mullein, wild cherry bark, coltsfoot, and yerba sante. After the herbal decoction is made, it is often boiled down and then combined with honey, which has been was shown in a study published in JAMA to be superior to over-the-counter cough medicine and effective for calming nighttime coughing in children with viral respiratory infections. If the cough is productive, herbal expectorants, such as ivy extract or South African geranium, and natural mucous-dissolving ingredients, such as N-acetyl-cysteine, are often recommended as well to help break up and expectorate mucous secretions. Steam inhalations with essential oils are another commonly recommended naturopathic treatment for coughs.
- Fever – may vary widely (from 100°F to as high as 104°F) and lead to feeling hot/feverish or chilled. In general, naturopathy treatment for fever is actually to support and even encourage fever rather than suppress it, given the fact that high temperature is the immune system’s way of killing the virus. A common hydrotherapy treatment called the “warming treatment” helps to increase core body temperature for this purpose. In this treatment, the patient takes a 5-minute very hot bath and then immediately dries off, dresses warmly and is helped into a bed lined with towels or a flannel sheet, with at least two layers of wool blankets on top. A hot water bottle or heating pad is placed over the upper abdomen and the patient sweats for at least twenty minutes, drinking plenty of water to remain hydrated during the sweat and afterwards drinking broth, soup or vegetable juice to help replenish electrolytes. This treatment is never done in conditions of serious illness or decreased vitality (elderly or very young children), pre-existing high fever, heart disease, pregnancy, and other health conditions.
- Sore throat – may be severe and typically lasts 3-5 days. Naturopathic recommendations for sore throat include warm salt-water gargles using ¼ to ½ teaspoon salt in one cup warm water and gargling 2-3 times daily. In addition, you can make your own gargle syrup by combining the juice of one lemon, 1 teaspoon Vitamin C powder, 1 pinch of cayenne and 1 teaspoon honey. Children often respond favorably to a carrot poultice placed over the neck. Herbal throat sprays and zinc gluconate lozenges are also commonly recommended.
- Runny or stuffy nose – varies in severity and is usually not the main symptom. You’re most susceptible to the flu in the cold winter months when the air is very dry and your heating systems are on, drying the air even more. This tends to dry out the mucous membranes in the nose and throat, the first line of defense against viruses, allowing viruses to attack the tissue in the nose and throat. There are many ways to moisten up the air and your mucous membranes. Naturopaths recommend drinking as much water as possible, using humidifiers, steam inhalation, and rinsing the sinuses with salt water frequently using a neti pot or other device for nasal irrigation.
- Other symptoms of the flu include muscle aches and pains, headaches, weakness, and severe fatigue which can last for several weeks. In addition to the treatments mentioned above, naturopaths have many more tools for minimizing these symptoms and helping patients heal from the flu. To find a naturopathic doctor near you, use our doctor directory resource here.
Take a natural antiviral like Andrographis
In addition to symptom-based naturopathy treatment, there are many natural medicines that have been shown in clinical studies to shorten the duration of viral infections by boosting the immune system and/or acting as anti-viral medicines. One of the most effective natural remedies is Andrographis. Andrographis is generally available as capsules with dried herb or as standardized extracts (containing 11.2 mg andrographolides per 200 mg of extract). For dried herb, take 1000mg to 3000 mg three times a day. For standardized extracts, take dosages supplying 48 to 60 mg andrographolides per day, divided into three or four doses. For more ideas on how to naturally prevent and treat symptoms of the flu, see the following articles:
- 5 Best Home Remedies for Flu Treatment Backed by Scientific Studies
- 3 Immune System Supplements to Prevent the Flu this Winter
What is your favorite flu fighting therapy?
Share in the Comments section below what is your own favorite therapy. Many people are taking the approach of using one of the natural antiviral therapies like oregano oil or andrograph is immediately upon feeling the very first symptoms of a cold or flu come on. That approach can often shorten the illness dramatically. Do you do that? Share the successes you’ve had with that approach with other readers and help them learn from your experience.