A specific acute viral disease characterized by fever,
coryza, cough, headache, malaise, and inflamed respiratory mucous membranes.
Severe colds and various unidentified virus infections are often referred
to as `flu’, and some authorities would argue that this is incorrect, and
that true influenza is a much more severe infection, appearing in widespread
epidemics, often at intervals of approximately ten years. Bacterial secondary
infections are the greatest risk of `true’ influenza, and were responsible
for the thousands of deaths in past epidemics. The use of antibiotics has
dramatically reduced such deaths, although the very young and the elderly
are still at risk & a really severe infection of this kind may be one
of the situations in which the use of antibiotics is sensible. In this case,
don’t stop the herbal treatment, it can only be beneficial and will not
conflict with orthodox drug treatment.
Actions indicated for the processes behind this Disease
Anti-microbials will help the immune system combat the
viral infection and help avoid secondary infection
Diaphoretics help with the symptoms of feverishness and support the
body cope with the raised temperature.
Anti-catarrhals will ease the symptomatic discomfort so characteristic
of this problem. However, avoid trying to `dry up’ the overproduction with
herbal de-congestants for the reasons explored elsewhere.
Expectorants are called for in one of their varieties if there is
the development of secondary problems in the lower respiratory system.
Lymphatics are indicated if there is any development of swollen glands
or known history of such problems.
Bitters help deal with the debility that often follows such viral
Nervines can be found useful in dealing with high fevers and associated
Focus must be given to anything specific point of weakness in an individual,
especially in the elderly.
As with the common cold there are no miracle cures here. A pity but there
it is! There are certain plants that can make life much more bearable. These
are usually diaphoretics and the one that is the authors’ favorite is Eupatorium
perfoliatum. This is Boneset which gets it name from its use in easing
the bone pain in what was called by European settlers in North America as
‘the break-bone fever’.
One possible prescription
2.5ml of tincture taken every 2 hours
a strong infusion drunk hot every hour. Follow
the advice given above for the common cold if the symptom picture calls
These herbs supply the following actions:
Anti-microbials (Hydrastis canadensis, Echinacea spp.)
Diaphoretics (Eupatorium perfoliatum)
Anti-catarrhals (Hydrastis canadensis, Echinacea spp.)
Lymphatics (Echinacea spp.)
Bitters (Hydrastis canadensis, Eupatorium perfoliatum)
Broader Context of Treatment
Treatment is most effective if started at the very first sign of
infection. A moderately hot bath with a few drops of anti-viral essential
oil added will often induce diaphoresis, followed by a deep, restful sleep.
This may be enough to avert a full-blown attack, though it is a good idea
to repeat the bathing for the next two or three days. An effective oil for
this purpose is Ti-tree. Some people find this a mild skin irritant, and
may not be able to tolerate more than 3 or 4 drops in a full bath.
Recovery from influenza is often slow, and the convalescent may feel very
weak and lacking in vitality. Caffeine containing stimulant herbs should
be avoided as the `lift’ is temporary and will slow down recovery (see the
section on the nervous system and stress). As pointed out above, bitter
tonics will speed recovery through their metabolic stimulating effects.
Appropriate bitters tonics include:
Eupatorium perfoliatum : also diaphoretic and anti-catarrhal
Gentiana spp. : aids the digestion in a number of ways and doesn’t
taste too bad
Hydrastis canadensis : also anti-catarrhal and generally tonic
Marrubium vulgare : also expectorant and anti-catarrhal
In addition the use of adaptogens is often helpful and attention to diet
is (of course) essential. It may be helpful to use a multivitamin/mineral
formulation until the appetite and general vitality is back to normal.