Herbal Medicine in Prevention and Treatment of the Flu

Lorraine Kabacinski, L. Ac., <

PureInsight | November 7, 2005

Chinese herbal medicine has been used to successfully treat various strains of flu for hundreds if not thousands of years. It should be noted that there is no research to verify this assertion, yet there are centuries of empirical evidence that can attest to the usefulness and safety, when prescribed by a qualified herbalist, in the prevention and treatment of flu-like symptoms. It should be noted also that without strict research controls there is no basis to truly determine the statistics of prevention. Only the happiness of those are in this category, followed by those who have been treated using safe, relatively inexpensive, nonaddictive means that also do not have the effect of causing viral or bacterial agents to become immune to the treatment.

Flu-like symptoms in Chinese medicine are not assessed according to which viral strain is causing the symptoms but according to the complex art of assessment based on the principles of Chinese medicine. These principles go back thousands of years to the original philosophical concepts of Yin and Yang, the relationship of opposites, that is, hot and cold, and in subsequent years the principles of ancient physics called The Five Elements of fire, earth, metal, water and wood or "Wu Xing."

When a person presents him or herself to a Chinese herbalist, the herbalist takes the person's pulse, looks at the tongue, asks questions regarding the onset of symptoms, qualities of chills and fever, sweating, urination, severity or lack of body aches, overall constitution, and so on. A determination is made as to the pattern of the illness. Because of different constitutions and general health, any specific flu or bacterial infection could manifest in various ways depending on the person it attacks. So there is no one herbal treatment for any particular flu, but the herbal treatment is based on the specific pattern that is manifesting when the person visits the herbalist. The flu pattern can also vary depending on the stage of manifestation—whether it is an early, middle or late stage of infection. The herbalist will also take this into consideration in recommending the particular herbal formula.

Before an attack of flu-like symptoms, an herbalist can also recommend herbs that strengthen the immune system, enabling the person to resist bacterial or viral infections.
With Chinese medicine a person can take steps to improve the immune system in various ways, such living a balanced and moderate lifestyle, making proper food choices, managing stress with meditation and a proper attitude, exercise, avoidance of alcohol, nicotine and drugs. Proper hygiene utilizing hand washing will also help to prevent infections. Will this guarantee that someone will not have flu-like symptoms? No, but it will strengthen one's immune system, so if one does fall ill, he or she will be able to recover more quickly.

I have only had flu-like symptoms three times in my life. The first time, I was 18 years old. I believed in natural remedies and went to a health food store. The owner recommended fenugreek seed tea, which is a Western herb, along with using over-the-counter formulas. I used these and recovered completely in three days. The next year, I had the flu again and used fenugreek tea and aspirin. Again, I recovered in three days. Almost 20 years later, I had the flu again, and I used whatever patent Chinese herbs I had on hand for symptomatic relief, and one or two days of a formula from a Chinese herbalist on the fourth and fifth day. After the sixth day I returned to work fully recovered and have not had the flu since.

Investigating Chinese medicine is one way to prepare for this flu season and a possible flu pandemic.

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