Yep. It’s that time of year again. Various flu viruses are going around. Well, actually, they don’t just “go around”, they get “shared around” – we all know that. But, what can each of us do, individually, to attempt to ward off the evil demons of flu?
What In The Actual Flu?
First, a little science: The flu is a contagious respiratory disease caused by an influenza virus. In the U.S., flu outbreaks typically occur in winter months. Symptoms include fever, chills, sore muscles, and cough. Thousands of people in the U.S. die each year from the flu or its complications. Most of those who die are the elderly, young children, or people with compromised immune systems.
The viruses that typically cause the flu are primarily categorized as influenza type A or type B. Influenza type B does not change much over time, but type A can mutate rapidly. Therefore, a new form of the flu vaccine must be developed each year to protect people against the exact strains that are expected to be most prevalent.
Should I Get a Flu Shot?
We could get a flu shot. Some people believe that’s a good idea. I am not one of them. But if you think it would help, then, by all means – get a flu shot! Chances are good, however, that it won’t make much, if any, difference. Unless you happen to be exposed to that PARTICULAR strain of flu, AND your body hasn’t built up a resistance to the drugs used to fight it in the past (superbugs!).
Time and space don’t permit going into all the arguments for or against flu vaccines here, but I for one, have settled the question long ago. I am in that “high risk” group, and I have not had a flu (or any other) vaccine in years –more than ten. I’ve had flu one time in that ten or so years, even though I have very little left of an “immune” system.
Admittedly, that one time sent me to the ER – I’m not opposed to modern medicine when it is truly necessary, but it had better be “truly necessary”, as far as I am concerned.
That said, short of taking unnecessary or unwelcome risks in getting a flu shot – what can any of us do?
So What Are Some Natural Remedies for the Flu?
Use natural foods and herbals to build your immune system while you are still healthy, and it’s a pretty good bet you’ll stay healthy! Some simple, natural approaches:
1. Raw Honey
RAW honey, LOCALLY produced is one of the best immune builders you’ll find anywhere, and, at least at this writing, is generally not that hard to find.
It needs to be RAW (unfiltered) to get all the “good stuff” those busy little bees worked so hard to collect for you – pollens from local sources so that your system can work with those things you are naturally exposed to; if you live in Illinois, pollens from Texas bluebonnets aren’t worth much to you, for example!
Raw honey is dark, such as amber or golden brown, whereas filtered honey is see-through gold (you can buy that off any grocery store shelf, and, other than being a natural sweetener, will have no real medicinal value – too much heat applied).
Raw, local honey is sometimes available at your nearest Whole Foods or Natural Foods grocery. Otherwise, look online for an apiarist (beekeeper) in your area. Eat it by the spoonful, put it in your herbal teas, baked goods – however you can get lots of it in you – preferably before you starting feeling under attack, but even after is useful.
2. Elderberry Syrup
Elderberry (Sambucus Nigra) syrup: helps build your immune system (more power packed with antioxidants than even blueberries), also good for controlling cough; an excellent natural “mucilage”.
Black Elderberry is the kind you want; red elderberry grows only in the Northern U.S. and Canada, and isn’t likely to be found in most places; however, while red elderberry has some of the medicinal value of Black Elderberry, it is not nearly as potent.
The syrup is naturally sweet – very sweet; take a teaspoon of this three times a day just to build your immune system, BEFORE you get sick (consider it dessert, if you like!). Be careful not to get it on your favorite clothes – I don’t believe it will ever wash out.
4. Herbal Teas
Herbal teas such as Echinacea (purple coneflower), a real power house! Enjoy this preferably hot, sweetened with local, raw honey, and it will do wonders.
I suggest blending your own; you can buy the dried herbs at any Natural or Whole Foods Store, or buy them online. Don’t have a tea infuser? Just wrap some herbs in a couple of layers of cheesecloth, tie with a rubber band or recycled twist tie, brew away! You can reuse the cheesecloth, but washing in between uses is recommended.
We prefer Ceylon Cinnamon. Ceylon is “true” Cinnamon, grown only in the former “Ceylon”, now Sri Lanka. All other cinnamon is “Vietnamese” or “Saigon” Cinnamon. Once you taste Ceylon, you’ll know the difference!
Take a teaspoon of raw, local honey and this cinnamon (3) times a day; have a glass of water or hot (just warm for a child) herbal tea handy to help “wash it down” (especially for a young child; while it’s perfectly safe for all ages, the thickness may be an issue for a young child).
Take cinnamon capsules to help heal, and also to prevent illness, in the first place. You can make your own – just buy the ground cinnamon and the gel caps and take a capsule a day, especially during cold/flu season.
Ginseng is a detox aid and immunity-booster.
8. Lemon Balm
Lemon Balm is an antiviral that you can grow as houseplant!
An awesome sinus-clearer.
This herb has cleansing properties. Grow in a pot on a windowsill in cold months.
Immune-booster (great mixed with Echinacea!) – this will grow well as a houseplant, as well.
An antibacterial, immune-booster.
Ok, So What About A Little Flu Prevention?
Well, for starters, I do not work outside the home any longer, though I did for many, many years, which, no doubt, helps greatly. I also haven’t had children in school for years, which significantly cuts down on everyone’s illness frequency in the family.
But what other simple steps can we take to reduce our exposure, or even get the best of the little nasties (viruses) before they get the best of us?
Clean or disinfect all shared objects, door knobs, etc., with white vinegar water or bleach water. Vinegar is more natural and won’t ruin your clothes, and is actually more effective at killing germs than bleach. Some people can’t handle the smell of vinegar, unfortunately.
NEVER, EVER EAT OR DRINK AFTER ANYONE ELSE. I don’t care how much you like them. Unless you are stuck in the Mojave Desert with others and only one canteen of water among you, don’t do this! Don’t “sample” food from another’s plate, either. I have a family member who loves to do this. One good stab with a fork has proven quite helpful in retraining, in case you need to know that! Just sayin’….
Stay hydrated – always. Drink lots and lots of pure, clean water. Not citified, municipal water full of toxins, but clean water. Filter that water with a GOOD filter, or drink bottled SPRING water from a trusted source. Many illnesses today are the result of insufficient amounts of good, clean water in the body – “dehydration”. Avoid caffeine and carbonated sodas, which will further dehydrate you.
Avoid breathing air people are coughing into. I know – easier said than done. Droplets travel a maximum distance of about three (3) feet upon being expelled by someone in a cough or sneeze. These droplets are “loaded” with infectious particles. They involve “fomites” – diseases that spread by droplet transmission, fecal–oral transmission, or contact transmission.
Keep a disposable tissue always at the ready and, if necessary, cover your mouth and nose with it as soon as someone sneezes or coughs around you. Hold it there long enough for “droplets” to settle. If you need to sneeze or cough, use a tissue and dispose, OR cough into your closest shoulder or the inside of your arm, or a coat or sweater, if you must. Just don’t be careless about where you place the coat or sweater upon sneezing or coughing into it!
Make yourself some homemade chicken soup. Science has proven what every Mother has always known – homemade chicken soup has medicinal qualities! Don’t use that stuff in the can, please– way too much sodium and MSG! It isn’t hard to make a batch of chicken soup; and don’t omit the veggies: onion, celery, garlic, carrots, parsley – they ALL have strong medicinal value.
Add noodles, if you like, but precook them in plain water and then add them to the soup, so they don’t absorb that important broth, one of the most healing elements of the soup. The carbs in noodles can help keep tummies calm. Without the noodles, it’s good to home can chicken soup and have it always at the ready. Cook noodles separately and add later.
One of my favorite things to do is send over a jar of homemade chicken soup with other “care” items when someone is ill; I call them “get well kits”. I usually include a couple of boxes of tissues (not the ones with lotion – some people are allergic!); the soup, a box or two of herbal tea, some local raw honey, and ALWAYS a few packs of “Emergen C”; I’ll let you do your homework on this, but it tastes good and helps keep people hydrated, while boosting their vitamin and mineral levels (A nice hand-written “Get Well” note is always a little “happy”, too).
Wash your hands. No, not just any old way, and not just when you’re “in the mood”. Wash your hands after going to the bathroom, most certainly, and any time you’ve been shaking hands or handling items with other people. But do it according to infection control principles:
- Turn on water; get water to proper temp; water is going to run down the sink and may appear “wasted”, and this is one time when I’m o.k. with apparent “waste”. If you knew me, you’d understand that. Don’t worry – it gets recycled through the water system – it WILL be back!
- Wet hands thoroughly and lather up! Both of them! No cheating!
- Water should still be running; rinse hands thoroughly. DON’T TOUCH THOSE FAUCET HANDLES!
- Use disposable paper towels ONLY to dry hands; using those same paper towels, turn off water – don’t touch the dirty handles with your clean hands! NO PAPER TOWELS? Don’t you hate that?! Grab toilet paper – as much as needed – and dry with it, turn off spigot.
- But wait – you aren’t finished with those paper towels or tpaper; use them to open the door. Don’t touch that dirty door handle! Did you know that not everyone who goes to the bathroom washes hands before grabbing that handle? Uh-huh. Gross. But true. Use that paper, open the door; stand in front of the door and hold it open with your behind (this is where I put my brains to use! : ) and slam-dunk that well-used paper toweling into the waste receptacle.
Your hands are now clean and as disinfected as possible – every time. This technique takes a little practice, but, once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature.
But what about when you can’t wash your hands? Carry some disinfectant cloths, even just a small packet, for just that purpose. Keep a container in your vehicle and you’ll always have them for back-up. DO NOT use those sticky, gel-type “sanitizers”. Tests have proven these are actually worse than not washing hands! They are so sticky, everything you touch “clings” to you after you use them, making you a magnet for germs and bacteria!
I hope you find all of this helpful. Here’s to a flu-free season! For the latest CDC flu outbreak map – check this out.