Q: Are there any natural products that I can use to prevent the flu? And if I get flu symptoms, what can I do to get over it quickly?
There are many natural products that can help keep your immune system healthy and strong during flu season. Two of the most important herbs to have in your medicine cabinet are elderberry and Pelargonium. Both can usually be found at health food stores and pharmacies.
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) has been used to treat colds and flus for centuries in Europe. A January 2009 study published in Phytochemistry reported that the flavonoids found in elderberry can bind to the H1N1 virus and block its ability to infect host cells. The authors concluded that the flavonoids in elderberry are comparable to the anti-viral activities of the medication Tamiflu. Another study, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 1995, found that elderberry inhibits several strains of influenza virus, including types A, B and H1N1; those who were exposed to the flu viruses and took elderberry showed significant improvement in symptoms, and earlier recovery, than those who did not take it.
Elderberry tastes good and can easily be taken as a tablet, syrup, or chewable pill. The recommended dose is 100 milligrams three times daily. Pregnant and lactating women should refrain from using the herb until further safety studies have been done.
If you contract the flu, Pelargonium, also known as Pelargonium sidoides, Umcka, or Viraclear EPs 7630, is one of the most helpful over-the-counter natural remedies. A member of the geranium family found primarily in South Africa, the herb has been studied extensively in Germany and found to contain polyphenols that act as non-specific immune stimulants. Its active compounds also prevent bacterial adhesion, which could prevent secondary bacterial infections. According to a 2009 study published in the journal Rhinology, people with acute sinusitis treated with Pelargonium recovered more quickly than those who did not take it. Other studies have found the herb effective at treating acute bronchitis and non-strep tonsillitis in pediatric patients. Pelargonium has been found to be very safe for children and adults; in Germany, where approximately 304 million daily doses of the herb were sold between 1994 and 2006, the number of side effects reported was extremely low. The recommended dose of the herb, which is usually taken in liquid form, is 1.5 milliliters three times daily for adults and children 12 or older, 1.0 milliliters three times daily for children 6-12, and 0.5 milliliters three times daily for children 2-6.