What to do about H1N1 flu? 5 Tips

September 29, 2009
Winter Spirit Immuni-Tea

Winter Spirit Immuni-Tea

The “novel H1N1 Flu” (aka “swine flu’) is a new strain of H1N1 virus that is affecting communities all over the world, thus, it is labeled as a ‘pandemic’. That label does not mean it is particularly dangerous or threatening, as was once feared. On the contrary, H1N1 is a bit on the wimpy side so far. (That doesn’t mean it will stay that way, but for the time being…). I was listening to a physician-vaccine expert on NPR this morning and he was referring to all important public health measures for flu prevention, but neglected to mention anything related to nutrition or herbal supports in our arsenal against flu, both in terms of prevention and treatment.

First of all, it is worth noting that unlike colds, considered in Traditional Chinese Medicine to be energetically cold in origin and thus requiring ‘warming’ treatments and herbs such as the use of diaphoretics to increase sweating (elder flower, ginger) and the use of sweating therapy to help our bodies fight viruses, flus are considered in TCM to be energetically hot. This is significant in that we would thus not use diaphoretics, but other potent anti-virals that will help reduce fevers, lessen severity and shorten severity. Herbal treatments in this camp would include boneset, a potent anti-viral; echinacea, an immune stimulant; and herbs used in Chinese medicine in flu-fighting formulas, such as forsythia, honeysuckle, and red clover. Astragalus is often mentioned as an immune booster, and it certainly is, but we use astragalus for preventative means and not for treatment of acute infection. In addition, there was an intriguing comment on a previous post about the use of medicinal mushrooms being contraindicated with the treatment of flu because of the possibility of some strains of flus causing excess immune response in the form of ‘cytokine storms’.

Shiitake: Fungi MB

Shiitake: Fungi MB

Master herbalist Michael Tierra,  clinical herbalist, educator, and a founder of the American Herbalists’ Guild (AHG),  recently addressed this possible misconception in a seminar about the use of herbs to treat H1N1.  It appears that cytokine storms, or the theory of an overly strong immune response of some healthy adults, is not so much to blame in flu-related deaths, but rather, bacterial co-infection. Indeed, cytokine storms may not really be responsible at all. And just today there were reports that one third of H1N1 deaths to date were not a result of the flu itself but of bacterial co-infection. For this reason, I am not convinced that medicinal mushrooms such as shiitake, reishi, and maitake should be put aside in the therapeutic treatment of flu– and at the very least, they certainly offer immune-boosting potential. You might check out a lovely recipe posted by the latest Herb Companion issue that utilizes shiitake, astragalus, and garlic in an immune-boosting winter soup.

Atragalus: Mountain Rose Herbs

Astragalus: Mountain Rose Herbs

TIPS TO PREVENT & TREAT THE FLU

1. Follow public health measures: wash your hands, cough into your inner elbow, and use anti-bacterial hand sanitizer in public places whenever necessary. Whether or not to get the vaccine is up to you. That said, vaccine manufacturers don’t claim that the vaccine will actually prevent flu, per se, but will just shortens the flu’s duration by 1/2-2 days and may decrease severity. Make an informed choice and it will be the right choice for you.  

2. Get some REST: Putting America’s obsession with business aside is a tough task for most, but realize that the less sleep and relaxation you get, the more vulnerable you’ll be! If you actually do get the flu, make sure you rest and don’t try to work through it. You’ll only end up more sick and vulnerable to nasty bacterial co-infections.

3. Plan to Stay at Home if you do get flu. Check out resources for sheltering-in-place and have some herbal and nutritional supplies stocked up ahead of time (maybe some extra soup frozen, some herbal syrups made, some tinctures all tinctured up, some herbal blends made both for tea and facial steams).  Vitamin C is better as a flu preventative than a treatment, but raw garlic is a powerful anti-viral remedy to take as soon as symptoms start to appear. Check out some earlier posts about such herbal remedies and recipes.

4. Take Astragalus syrups, formulas, soups, or capsules as a preventative measure. Along with immune-boosting soups, stews (both of which you can add astragalus root to), take astragalus or Jade Windscreen (TCM formula containing Astragalus) to help prevent the onset of flu. Stop taking if acute infection shows up. Tierra’s Planetary Herbalsmakes an alcohol-free glycerite of the Jade Windscreen for children.

5.  Fight Flu with Nutrition and Herbs: Use non-diaphoretic, immune boosting, anti-viral herbs to shorten the duration and decrease severity of flu symptoms, as mentioned above. Eat therapeutic foods such as kicharee, soupy grains, and easy to digest foods. Raw foods, particularly vegetables, are eliminating and difficult to digest, and thus are not recommended to fight flu. Tierra believes that fruit juices have the wrong energy for fighting flu, and thus recommends warm stocks and broths, kicharee and herbal teas and decoctions. Miso soup with onion and garlic (added at the end) is another great choice, as the miso provides assistance with digestion and keeps gut flora up to snuff.


Natural Remedies Tip #3 – Hydrotherapy with Salts

September 10, 2009

bath_teaLGHydrotherapy, or the use of water as therapy, involves the practice of purifying the body, whether in terms of detoxification or ritual purification, and has been in practice for millenia. The Romans and Greeks utilized water-based cleansing and bathing rituals, building elaborate bath houses and saunas, as have many other cultures throughout history. Water itself is seen as sacred in many mythological traditions –so much so that its use for deep cleansing is probably universal. Using water through the use of baths, saunas, steams, or rubs increases circulation of blood & lymph and helps the body detoxify by increasing perspiration.

Using salts, whether epsom, sea salts, or mineral-rich dead sea or himalayan salts can enhance the detoxification process. Salts draw impurities from the body, help heal infections, reduce inflammation, and add mineral content to the body &  aid in cleansing.  Adding salt to a bath replicates natural mineral springs, often seen as sites of healing, cleansing, and transformation. Bathing with mineral rich salts are also wonderfully relaxing and even serve to soften the skin. Salt water baths, all told, are much better for the body than chemically-produced bath bubbles! Below I include two recipes that incorporate the use of salts for your own water rituals.

Cypress & Rosemary Purifying Bath
2 cups Epsom salts or Dead Sea Salts
3 drops cypress essential oil
3 drops grapefruit oil
3 drops ginger essential oil
1 Tbsp whole milk or carrier oil (such as olive)
1 sprig fresh rosemary

Add the essential oils to the milk or carrier oil, mix with the salts, and then add entire mixture to a hot bath. Add the rosemary sprig to gently infuse into the bath water, releasing its fragrance. Soak in the tub for 15-30 minutes and then rinse with lukewarm water.

Detoxifying Seaweed Bath
1 cup Epsom Salts
1 cup Himalayan, Dendritic, or Dead Sea Salts
1/2 cup dried kelp, dulse or other seaweed
1 cup baking soda (to soften water and smooth skin)

Combine the epsom salts, sea salt, and kelp in a blender and grind into a fine powder. Alternatively, sift together in a flour sifter (this will still be safe for food use because you aren’t using any essential oils). Add mixture to a tub of hot water along with the baking soda. Soak for 20 minutes and then rinse with lukewarm water.

Check out my Etsy shop for Water Ritual and Dream Journey bath teas, Sea Milk Detoxifying Soak, and other bathing pleasures.
sea_milk_soak_2


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