Avoiding the Flu
by CoreyPine Shane on January 22nd, 2018

There’s a nasty flu going around this winter, and it is slow to respond to any remedy, whether herbal or conventional. But it is a hundred times easier to prevent getting sick than it is to treat it once it’s started, and there are some easy strategies to help us stay healthy so we can enjoy our personal time and also not miss work. 
You can find lists of remedies online, but there are so many things you can do before even thinking about herbal medicine! Most of which are the simple things that our mothers and grandmothers taught us, and they’re still just as true today. Of course, there’s also a few supplements that can be very helpful, so there is a section below for those too. At the start of each section, I’ve provided a bullet-point fast reference with further explanation below.
  • Wear a scarf
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Minimize stress
  • Eat well
  • Oleate your body
  • Humidifiers
One of the easiest things we can do is to wear a scarf all winter, no matter the weather. Chinese medicine says illness enters the body through the “wind point” in the back of the neck, so always protect that area. Keep your neck covered whenever you’re outside, even when it gets warmer (just wear a lighter scarf those days). Changeable weather is in some ways more dangerous than cold weather because it can throw our body for a loop.
Getting enough rest should be easy, but in this busy culture, it’s something many of us struggle with. Sleep is the time our body heals and rebuilds, so it’s essential for the prevention of any illness. And chronic stress suppresses the immune response, so that when we do get sick we end up getting much sicker. Remember that stress isn’t about what happens to us, but how we react to it, so it’s important to notice both how to minimize stressful events but also how to cope better with the stressors that are naturally part of our life.
Eating well means different things to different people. Most traditional medicines (Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, etc.) says to avoid raw and cold foods during the winter, emphasizing foods like soup, especially including long-cooked bone broth as part of the soup (if you’re vegetarian, you can make a carrot, potato and onion peel broth with mushrooms). And this might be a bias from my Jewish upbringing, but I recommend chicken soup with LOTS of garlic in there.
Speaking of herbs, you don’t always have to take your herbal remedies as an extract or a capsule, it’s easy to include antiviral herbs like garlic, rosemary, and thyme in your daily food. To get the most activity out of garlic, crush and/or chop it, then let it sit for at least ten minutes before cooking. This allows the enzyme alliinase to activate the active constituent allicin, making the medicine stronger.
Another easy thing to do is to oleate your body. This is just a fancy word for putting oil on your skin, which is an ancient Ayurvedic practice. Use an unprocessed high-quality oil like raw (not toasted) sesame oil, coconut oil, or almond oil.
This layer of fat provides an extra layer of protection from the wind, an insulation if you will. And it also helps nourish our skin so that it doesn’t dry out so much in the dry winter air. You can put these oils on just your exposed skin like your face and hands, but a whole-body oleation either before or after a shower feels SO good AND (side benefit) supremely calming that it has to be experienced. This practice is sometimes used to calm an overactive nervous system as well.  Energetically we can think about this as soothing the "Vata" dosha, or as nourishing our Kidney Yin.
Keeping our body moist is actually a great preventative; dryness makes us susceptible to infection. Though we might think of mucus as being that nasty stuff we get when we’re sick, it is actually there all the time as our body’s way of protecting the sensitive lining of our respiratory tract, adding an extra layer of protection and moistening. It is our body’s first line of defense, so when we get too dry, we lose a layer of protection. Humidifiers are great this time of year for that very reason, as well as rehydration drinks like we'll talk about below. These are the beneficial Yin fluids that nourish and protect our body.

Natural Remedies
  • Vitamin D3, 5,000 IU each day, minimum
  • Zinc, 30 mg to 100mg as needed
  • Elderberry syrup or elixir
  • Rehydration drinks
  • Oscillococcinum homeopathic
Although I’m a big fan of getting our nutrition from food rather than pills, there are a few supplements that can be extremely helpful. The very first of which would be a strong dose of Vitamin D3, at least 5,000 IU per day. Almost all Americans are Vitamin D deficient, especially at this time of year, and this vitamin plays a major role in our immune system, keeping our bones healthy, and also helps with seasonal depression. Studies have shown a direct correlation between low Vitamin D and susceptibility to viruses. 
Zinc has been the other major player in our family’s protocol, taking between one and three 30 mg capsules after a good meal (it can upset your belly on an empty stomach). When we feel a sore throat coming on, we’ll take two capsules after every meal and it really helps. Even after someone is sick, it is still helpful to keep taking it to keep the immune system strong.  Taking zinc at the same time as your Vitamins D, A, K2, and Magnesium can really increase the absorbability of all those fat-soluble vitamins. See this excellent article here to learn more about how these nutrients interact and support each other.
But this is an herbal blog, so we have to mention the helpful herbs too! Although it’s probably not surprising that I love Elderberry, we’ve come up with some good ways to get more of it at our house. I’ve kept myself healthy by taking several squirts of our own Pine's Herbals tasty Elderberry Chai Elixir a couple times a day, a spiced Elderberry syrup concentrate that we make at Pine’s Herbals. 
My wife, Karen, makes Elderberry Lemonade for rehydration, with Elderberry syrup that are not only really tasty but are way better for you than sodas or over-sweetened iced tea. She makes these by filling a half gallon canning jar with water, adding a few ounces of lemon juice, a couple tablespoons of maple syrup, and several good “glugs” of Elderberry syrup, and often a pinch of salt.  Enjoy them hot or cold. The result is delicious and incredibly hydrating when all of our throats are scratchy, and the all the dry air everywhere has dehydrated us.
And finally there’s homeopathy. One of the best homeopathics for treating any flu is called Oscillococcinum. You can take 2-3 pellets once a day (no more!) to prevent the flu if you might be catching it, and if you actually have the flu, you can take 2-3 pellets several times a day to treat it.

As a trained homeopath, Karen would like to help you to make your Oscillococcinum last for years in your cabinet rather than having to buy more every flu season with this handy bit of information:  Although the instructions say to take the whole vial, it is a homeopathic, meaning that less is more—the instructions are just a marketing gimmick to sell more. You actually only need to take 2-3 pills to be effective. Karen recommends putting the pills in the cap, then tipping the cap into your mouth, not touching the pills with your hands. As a homeopathic remedy, don’t take it within 15 minutes of eating or drinking anything (except water), and keep the open bottle away from strong smells.
All that said, only you know when and if it’s time to go to the doctor.  Please herb responsibly.  None of this information is intended to replace responsible medical care.
All in all, remember that prevention is easier than treatment, and sometimes the easy things work best. So take good care of yourself, and take herbs and remedies as you need them before you get sick. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to stay healthy even when everyone is staying in bed. 

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Diane Marcukaitis - January 24th, 2018 at 12:54 PM
Love this info! How can I follow your blog?
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