By Michael A. Smith, MD
Herbal remedies used for diminishing flu symptoms are well supported with solid clinical evidence ... more than your doctor knows. Take it from me, a previously skeptical medical doctor, these herbs work!
Herbal Remedy #1: Andrographis paniculata
Andrographis is cultivated in Southeast Asia and has been used for centuries to ease flu symptoms and speed recovery. It is mostly used by naturopathic doctors in the US and has had mixed results at best. However, the variable effects and seemingly ineffectiveness has more to do with low quality products, not the herb itself.
After successfully using Andrographis for my flu symptoms, I was compelled to see if there was any clinical evidence published about the herb. I was amazed at what I found ...
In one clinical trial, involving 540 adults with influenza, participants were given standardized extracts of Andrographis three times daily for 3-5 days, while 469 individuals used conventional antiviral medications and served as the control group.
The doctors measured severity of disease (measured by development of complications) and disease duration (measured by number of days on sick leave).
In the herbal remedy group, 30% progressed to complicated influenza compared to 70% in the control group. Likewise, those in the herbal group experienced a shorter duration of symptoms (approximately 6-7 days) compared to 9-10 days in the control group.
You can't ask for better results ... Andrographis works! But you have to take a high quality product. Look for a product that is made from the natural shrub and is standardized to 4% andrographolides (check the label carefully).
Herbal Remedy #2: Elderberry
Elderberry has direct-viral killing effects. It neutralizes the protein spikes found on the surface of the flu virus. Without these spikes, the virus can't penetrate cell membranes and replicate. Elderberry also activates several immune cells, like macrophages and T-cells.
But the proof is in the pudding. In one small clinical trial, significant improvement in flu symptoms was observed in 14 of 15 subjects two days after initial dosing, with complete symptom resolution in 13 of 15 subjects after three days.
In the placebo group, complete symptom resolution was only achieved by 4 of 12 subjects within three days and 5 of 12 subjects after five days.
Elderberry comes best in a liquid form developed by a certified herbalist.
Additional Herbs, Plants & Spices
I also like the following herbs for fighting the flu. Although there is less clinical evidence supporting their effectiveness, many people report great results:
- Astragalus– may work in similar ways to Andrographis.
- Baptisia – may help to reduce a fever and ease body aches.
- Olive Leaf – may have direct viral-killing effects.
- Oil of Oregano – may help to reduce congestion and coughs.