If you are looking for a safe and reliable treatment for the flu then perhaps homeopathy is for you. My own clinical experience of 20 years has repeatedly confirmed the safety and effectiveness of homeopathic treatment for the flu. Not to be confused with the term "holistic," which means any approach to health that takes into account the whole person, "homeopathic" refers to a specific holistic medical therapy that involves matching the symptom profile of the sick person with the symptom profile of a corresponding homeopathic medicine.
If you catch the flu and would like to try homeopathic treatment it is best to consult a well-qualified homeopathic medical professional. It should be noted that homeopathic medicines are FDA approved and regulated, and all of the ones discussed here are classified as over-the-counter. Homeopathic medicines are exceedingly safe and are available for purchase in many natural food stores, pharmacies and even some grocery stores.
Medical historians tend to overlook the full history of the 1918 influenza epidemic. Records indicate that death rates for those receiving homeopathic treatment were significantly lower than those using the conventional therapy of the time (mostly aspirin). One report noted that there was a 1.05 percent mortality rate in 26,795 cases of influenza treated by homeopathic physicians compared to an average death rate of 30 percent for cases treated by regular doctors of the time (1).
A well-chosen homeopathic prescription serves to reinforce the self-healing capacity of the body by boosting the immune system. There is some contemporary research that points to the effectiveness of homeopathic treatment for the flu but more research needs to be done (2). Although we continue to face new strains of the flu with each passing season, the symptoms that they generate are limited to some relatively predictable patterns that have been identified and documented by homeopathic practitioners over the generations. So fear not, because the same homeopathic medicines that worked during the 1918 flu epidemic can be used to treat contemporary versions of the flu.
In terms of flu prevention, there is some evidence that vitamin D may be of value (3). Avoiding overexposure to certain weather extremes can also help maintain optimal resistance to viral illnesses. The value of homeopathic treatment in preventing the flu is a subject of debate among homeopathic practitioners. One such medicine used prophylactically is called Influenzinum, although there is no research to back this up. However, once you catch the flu, a properly prescribed homeopathic medicine may reduce the severity of flu symptoms, prevent complications and help speed recovery.
If we were to draw up a laundry list of common flu symptoms it would read something like this: fever, chills, sweats, aches, fatigue, headache, cough, sore throat, diarrhea and so on. Since homeopathy is concerned primarily with the unique way in which each individual manifests his or her symptoms, the trick for the prescriber is to determine what symptoms are most prominent, or characteristic, in any given case of the flu. A careful study of the symptom pattern of the sick individual allows the prescriber to choose a corresponding homeopathic medicine that closely matches that pattern.
Two individuals may, for example, similarly complain of fever, chills and muscle aches. However, when we investigate further, we find that the first person emphasizes how cold he is. He is dressed in a sweatshirt, sweatpants, a hat and is under several blankets. By contrast, the second person complains about how achy she is, so much so, that she doesn't want to get up from the couch because it hurts too much to move. Therefore, it is important to carefully observe and listen to the way in which the sick individual experiences and describes his or her own symptoms. It's all in the emphasis.
Here are the indications for some of the most commonly prescribed homeopathic flu medicines:
Bryonia: This, in my experience, is one of the most frequently indicated flu medicines. The emphasis is on the fact that motion exacerbates the symptoms, and the person prefers, therefore, to remain quiet and still. There is often headache, dry cough and body aches, all of which become aggravated by moving around. The person can be irritable, and doesn't mind if he/she is left alone. The person is usually chilly, and may have chills or a fever spike around 9 p.m. There tends to be thirst for cold drinks, which the person gulps down at long intervals.
Gelsemium: The emphasis here is on drowsiness, sleepiness and fatigue. The person often sleeps all night, additional hours during the day, and is still exhausted. The person also experiences chills, complains of being cold and feels achy. There is a notable decrease in the normal level of thirst. It is as if the person is just too tired to bother to drink. This medicine may be easily confused with Bryonia, which lies in bed all day because motion aggravates the symptoms. Gelsemium lies there all day out of sheer fatigue.
Arsenicum: The most telling clue here is the onset of illness in the middle of the night, especially between 1 and 2 a.m. The person may wake with chills, diarrhea or vomiting at this time. Likewise, the symptoms may flare up again at the same time the next night. The person is often anxious, may fear that he/she is seriously ill, and prefers not to be left alone. He/she is usually quite chilly, and desires frequent small sips of liquid. Unlike the first two medicines, this one is anxious and restless and is, therefore, not likely to lie still.
Eupatorium: The "keynote" or telltale symptom here is bone pain. Most flu sufferers complain of muscle aches, but this medicine is best suited for individuals who literally complain of pain in their bones -- aching in the bones as if they are broken. This flu often begins in the morning with chills first, followed by fever. In spite of feeling cold, there is a desire for cold drinks.
Nux vomica: The person who needs this medicine is very chilly and usually has some type of digestive complaint like nausea or intestinal cramping pains. The person may be so cold that just moving the hand to a cool spot on the bed may send chills through the body. Unlike Arsenicum, which is also quite chilly, this person is usually unafraid.
Rhus tox: This flu may come on after exposure to cold, damp wet weather. Stiffness and pain causes the person to be restless, tossing and turning in bed. This person frequently changes position in order to be physically comfortable.
Aconite: The main clue here is the sudden onset of symptoms, usually high fever, especially after exposure to very cold, dry windy weather. The person is often anxious, and feels worse in a warm room and worse at night.
Baptisia: This flu is accompanied by a type of delirium. The person may become confused, and the headache may be stupefying. Reality becomes distorted and the person may experience odd sensations or say strange things. The person is sore all over and complains that the bed is too hard or uncomfortable.
Phosphorus: This type of flu can quickly go to the chest. There is a strong desire for large quantities of cold drinks, and the person prefers to have the company of another person.
Mercurius: The helpful clue here is that the person is alternating hot and cold, like the mercury in a thermometer. There can also be sore throat, bad breath, bad taste in the mouth and perspiration. This person tends to smell sick.
Belladonna: The main clue here is a bright red face with sudden onset of high fever often around 3 p.m., as if all the blood has rushed to the head. The person may complain of a pounding or pulsating type of headache.
Never well since the flu: For some individuals, the effects of a bout with the flu can last for a very long time. Some may complain, for example, of fatigue and other chronic symptoms. Constitutional homeopathic treatment can be effective in restoring one's vitality, however, this is a complex issue that should be handled by a homeopathic professional.
There are a variety of good quality first-aid homeopathic reference books available that can help one become familiar with the symptom profiles of the medicines. I usually prescribe the indicated medicine in a 30C or 30X strength (as in Bryonia 30C), although lower potencies (6X, 12X, etc) can also be used. Three to four doses dissolved in the mouth, spread out over the course of a 24-hour period, for adults and children alike, should be sufficient to elicit a positive response. Medicine kits that contain commonly indicated homeopathic medicines are also available for purchase from homeopathic pharmacies.
If the prescription is incorrect there will likely be no effect. If the correct medicine is taken, improvement may be noted within hours. Initial positive signs may be obvious or more subtle -- the person might sit up from the bed, ask for a drink or some food, or wish to engage in some activity. Once symptoms subside and steady improvement is noted, there is usually no further need to repeat doses of the medicine. If no progress has been made after 24 hours, another medicine can be tried in the same manner.
Please remember that it is always ideal to consult a homeopathic professional when using homeopathy. If this is not possible, and if symptoms persist or continue to get worse, please seek the care of a medical professional as soon as possible. Common sense should always prevail.
(1) W.A. Dewey, M.D., University of Michigan, Homeopathy in Influenza - A Chorus of Fifty in Harmony, Journal of the American Institute of Homeopathy, May 1921
(2) Vickers A, Smith C. Homoeopathic Oscillococcinum for preventing and treating influenza and influenza-like syndromes. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2006, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD001957. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001957.pub4
(3) Bill Gottlieb, The Easiest Way to Prevent Colds and Flu, Huffington Post
Recommended Homeopathic First-Aid Books:
The Complete Homeopathic Resource for Common Illnesses, Dennis Chernin, MD, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, 2006
Everybody's Guide to Homeopathic Medicines, Stephen Cummings, MD and Dana Ullman, MPH, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2004
The Family Guide to Homeopathy: Symptoms and Natural Solutions, Dr. Andrew Lockie, Fireside, New York, 1993
Larry Malerba, D.O., DHt is the author of "Green Medicine: Challenging the Assumptions of Conventional Health Care," published by North Atlantic Books and distributed by Random House. He has been a practitioner, educator and leader in the field of holistic medicine for more than 20 years.
Dr Malerba interview on Todays Authors - view here
Pacifica Radio: Dr Malerba discusses "Green Medicine" on Global Medicine Review