Alternative Medicines for Influenza

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is an infection of the respiratory tract. Many different viruses cause the sickness, and the particular strain dictates the severity of the symptoms. The flu strikes in outbreaks and epidemics, affecting a large group of people at once.

Many alternative therapies hold that suppressing the symptoms of the flu may actually prolong the illness. Instead, they seek to bolster the body and its defenses, allowing the body to work through the illness. Usually the alternative therapies that are effective in the treatment of the common cold also work well on the flu, including nutritional therapy, herbal medicine, and aromatherapy.


Homeopathy for Influenza

Homeopathy can stimulate the body to overpower the flu virus. The therapy uses highly diluted, nontoxic doses of a natural substance that would produce flu symptoms if given in full strength to a healthy person. The substances are taken from plant, mineral, or animal sources.

To find a remedy for the flu, a classical homeopath would scrutinize the extent and nature of the patient's symptoms and the course of the illness. The treatment is then tailored to the individual's symptoms. (Combination remedies, available over the counter, are formulated for the most common flu symptoms. Because of this lack of individualization, they are less effective.) Many details are studied to get a full picture of the patient's case. The following are some factors to consider:


  • Did the flu begin after a change in temperature?
  • Is there a fever? Is it burning? Alternating with chills?
  • Is the sickness accompanied by exhaustion?
  • Are there body pains? Where?
  • Is it accompanied by thirst?
  • Does it cause a change in temperament?

The following are some typical remedies for the flu:

  • arsenicum album for the flu that causes restlessness, anxiety, thirst for small sips of warm liquids, a desire for company (even fear of being alone), burning pains, burning discharge from the nose, wheezing cough, remittent fever, chills, and symptoms that are worst between midnight and 3:00 a.m.
  • gelsemium for the flu characterized by dull, dizzy, droopy, dopey feeling; aches all over; chills down the spine; no thirst; and heavy eyelids
  • baptisia tinctoria for the flu that causes putrid breath; severe dizziness, aches, chills; and serious illness with great prostration
  • bryonia alba for the flu that causes irritability, a desire to be alone in the quiet and dark, bursting headache, and a thirst for large amounts of cold water
  • eupatorium perfoliatum for the flu characterized by deep bone pain, thirst, sore eyeballs, sore skin, and symptoms that are worst between 7:00 and 9:00 a.m.


Hyperthermia Therapy for Influenza

A fever is a common symptom of the flu and is considered proof that the body is trying to eliminate infecting viruses. Many viruses can't withstand high temperatures. Hyperthermia treatment can give the body's defense system a helping hand, either by raising the body temperature (if a slight fever has already set in) or inducing a fever (if none is present).

In addition, practitioners of hyperthermia therapy believe that suppressing a fever -- by taking acetaminophen, for example -- may actually lengthen a bout with the flu. Hyperthermia treatment can be directed to the infected breathing passages or to the entire body. Ways to use this therapy include:


  • soaking in hot baths
  • inhaling steam (Be careful to avoid burns.)
  • covering with layers of clothes and blankets
  • drinking hot teas or broths

These methods are usually combined with herbal medicine, nutritional therapy, and detoxification therapy. Hyperthermia should be employed with great care and under a practitioner’s supervision.


Ayurvedic Medicine for Influenza

According to Ayurvedic medicine, a flu virus can only cause sickness in an unhealthy person, someone whose constitutional type is out of balance. This therapy works to bring the constitution back into harmony.

The Ayurvedic treatment for the flu is highly personalized for each patient, depending on both the current and ideal state of the constitution. For example, does kapha need to be calmed? Should pitta be strengthened? The treatment can involve several approaches, including:


  • dietary alterations -- eating certain foods and avoiding others to rebalance the constitution
  • herbal therapy -- taking a mix of herbs (in tea, tincture, powder, pill, or other form), also to rebalance the constitution
  • nasal douching -- rinsing the nose and mouth passages with salt water, to cleanse and detoxify
  • meditation -- calming and concentrating the mind
  • breathing exercises -- encouraging the body's flow of energy (prana)

An Ayurvedic physician may recommend the following breathing exercise:

  • Sit up or lie down in bed.
  • Inhale slowly and deliberately, sticking out your stomach as you draw in the breath.
  • Exhale, bringing your stomach in.
  • Repeat inhaling and exhaling, but focus on expanding and then bringing in the rib cage instead of the stomach.
  • Repeat again, this time focusing on moving your shoulders up and then down.
  • Finally, inhale, sticking out your stomach, expanding your rib cage, and then lifting up your shoulders.
  • Exhale, bringing your shoulders down, the rib cage in, and the stomach in.


Other Influenza Therapies

  • Bodywork for Influenza -- Techniques include massage and reflexology to increase blood circulation and stimulate the sinuses and lymphatic system.
  • Herbal Medicine for Influenza -- Herbs to strengthen the immune system and ease flu symptoms include echinacea (or purple coneflower), hypericum, baptisia, and elderberry.
  • Nutritional Therapy for Influenza -- Therapy can provide the body with needed nutrients and proscribe avoiding foods that weaken the defenses such as sugars and dairy products.


For more information on influenza and alternative medicine, see: