By: Rebecca Ramdeholl, CHNC
The cold, freezing, icy season is upon us, and thus, the virus begins its descent into our bodies once again. The stickin', rotten, annoyingly persistent flu virus. Like that annoying neighbor who just doesn't get that you don't want to talk to him, the flu virus annually knocks on our doors and knocks us down on our asses.
Now with the coming flu season, here's some scary stats to wrap your head around (United States).
In the context of flu season, I'd like you to really absorb points 2 - 5. I'd love to help reduce these numbers by offering some tips on how to reduce your chances of getting the flu, or how to cut the recovery time, so you can avoid going into the hospital. Now, keep in mind, I am not a medical doctor. In the end, if you feel like you need to get to the hospital, then go. You are in charge of your own health. That's the take away message here.
I've been there. I've used the hospital once when I was in my 20s to get checked in for dehydration due to flu. We've also used it for our daughter when she was young and we were terrified, worried....and inexperienced. Babies are a given. Take them to the hospital. You don't mess around with that. Years, education and experience, have taught me to identify what is truly an emergency with flu, and what is a "stay-at-home and rest" kind of flu....especially when it comes to my own children.
Just in case you didn't know, flu, or Influenza, is a respiratory infection that is caused by influenza A or B viruses, and that they are VERY contagious.
So here's something to use to try and ward off the flu, or cut its duration at least......
Elderberry!! I love this stuff! I had an elderberry bush in my yard, and I harvested all of its berries and made my own elderberry syrup, all ready to go for the winter. Below are pics of my adventures in concoction making with my harvest : )
The last pic above is of a yummy drink I made with my stash, but simply adding some of my elderberry syrup to water.
Studies have shown that some elderberry extracts may reduce those nasty flu-like symptoms, ranging from 2-4 days from the beginning of initial symptoms popping up[ii]. Duration of flu-like symptoms seemed to be reduced by about 56% when given within 48 hours of flu onset![iii]
Check out the findings in this study – by 48 hours after treatment with elderberry extract, 87% of patients had completely recovered from muscle aches; 24 hours after treatment, significant improvement in nasal congestion was shown, and by 48 hours, 50% of patients were completely free of nasal congestion. Finally, for fever, following the first 24 hours of treatment, patients taking the elderberry extract showed significant reduction in fever, and 60% of the fever patients returned to normal temperature. Within 48 hours, ALL patients in the elderberry group returned to normal temperature.[iv]
The first couple of studies mentioned were using Sambucol, which my family has been using if I didn't make enough of my own.
Sadly, I no longer have access to my beautiful Elderberry tree/bush and so I've had to resort to buying the Sambucol, or on those days where I miss my potion-making, I just buy a DIY Elderberry Syrup Kit from my friend, herbalist Correne at Spirea Herbs. Less steps involved, and the product is just as good!
If you need some more convincing to try elderberry, check out these added benefits: it has a lot of flavonoids and antioxidants, it contains 87% of the daily value in vitamin C, and good amounts of vitamin A, potassium, iron, vitamin B6, fiber and beta-carotene.
So, give it a try. Make sure that if you are dabbling in making your own syrup, that the berries are cooked well. Or just get the syrup ready made! It tastes delicious, so picky eaters will take it, and I personally have noticed the reduction in symptoms. But remember! Use common sense! If you feel like it's more than flu, or the fever isn’t breaking, or it involves a baby with a very high temperature, then go to the doctor!
Good luck navigating through the flu season!
[ii] Zakay-Rones Z, Varsano N, Zlotnik M, et al. Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama. J Altern Complement Med 1995;1:361-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9395631
[iii] Zakay-Rones Z, Thom E, Wollan T, Wadstein J. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. J Int Med Res 2004;32:132-40. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/147323000403200205
[iv] Kong F. Pilot clinical study on a proprietary elderberry extract: efficacy in addressing influenza symptoms. Online Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacokinetics 2009;5:32-43. http://www.omicron-pharma.com/pdfs/ElderberryClinicalOJPK_Published.pdf
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