Flu, short for influenza, is a viral respiratory disease caused by an influenza virus. Those who are immunocompromised and/or malnourished have a higher risk of catching the flu. Symptoms, such as fever, sore throat, and coughing, can be worsened if you’re stressed or lack sleep. During the 2017 to 2018 flu season in the US, the flu vaccine efficacy was only at 36%, making it widely known as a failure [R].
We have listed several natural flu treatments supported by research.
Otherwise known as coneflower, this herbaceous plant can help the body get rid of infections, especially when taken at the onset of an infection.
A double-blind, randomized, controlled trial was conducted in 2013 where an echinacea extract was tested and found to have both short-term and long-term effects against respiratory tract infections. Additionally, the influenza virus did not develop resistance to echinacea extract, unlike what happens with most popular flu medications such as oseltamivir [R].
In 2000, a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study was done and showed that drinking a daily dose of 5 to 6 cups of echinacea at the onset of an upper respiratory tract infection and then titrating down to 1 cup daily over 5 days is effective in alleviating symptoms [R].
Echinacea extract comes in various concentrations depending on the mode of preparation, but here are some common doses and preparations [R]:
- 6.7 mg tablets of echinacea extract (2 tablets 3 times daily)
- daily 900 mg echinacea root tincture
- Echinacea tea (5 to 6 cups on day 1, and then 1 cup daily after)
These oral doses of echinacea are considered safe to use for up to 6 months [R].
Elder or elderberry was found to be effective against influenza virus and inflammation of the bronchial tubes. One preliminary study was conducted wherein patients were administered with 15 mL elderberry syrup 4 times a day over the course of 5 days, and it was found to alleviate flu symptoms on an average of 4 days earlier compared to those taking the placebo [R].
Elderberry extract is considered safe when administered orally for up to 3 months or 12 weeks; however, for children, its oral administration should not be more than 10 days [R].
3. Brewer’s Yeast
Brewer’s yeast is a bitter-tasting yeast made from Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The University of Michigan Medical Center did a study on this yeast supplement and found that it can reduce the severity and duration of flu and cold symptoms in patients [R].
Its oral administration is generally considered safe for a short-term use of up to 3 months or 12 weeks [R].
4. Aged Garlic Extract
The benefits of aged garlic extract was looked into in a double-blind, randomized, controlled trial involving 120 individuals. It was found to be effective in reducing the severity of flu and cold symptoms and a great immune system booster. Aged garlic extract was found to boost immune system activity and reduce inflammatory proteins [R] [R].
5. Milk Thistle
Otherwise known as Silybum marianum, milk thistle is a plant that is indigenous to Europe. In September 2013, the US National Library of Medicine published a study indicating that Silybin, an active component in milk thistle, was found to block and reduce the spread of influenza A virus [R].
Horsetail is a plant rich in the flavonoid called isoquercetin and can fight off a variety of viruses. In 2010, the US National Library of Medicine conducted and published a study indicating that isoquercetin kills two notorious flu-causing viruses – influenza A and B [R].
Horsetail should not be administered to people who are at risk of potassium deficiency or patients with heart arrhythmias. This is because horsetail is a natural diuretic and can deplete potassium levels in the body by increasing potassium elimination [R].