Homeopathy for the Winter Flu
Flu’s, coughs, and colds are a natural part of our winter cycle – the trick is to try and keep our immunity as high as we can to prevent them and then use a method of treatment that supports the individual. Orthodox drugs and regimes can certainly give some relief from the symptoms of the flu but do not always assist the body to restore itself to a healthy balance.
For generations, homeopathy has been successfully utilized all over the world to assist sufferers of winter flu. Records as far back as the 1918 influenza epidemic indicate that death rates for those receiving homeopathic treatment than were significantly lower than those using the conventional therapy of the time (mostly aspirin). One report noted that there was a 1.05 percent mortality rate in 26,795 cases of influenza treated by homeopathic physicians compared to an average death rate of 30 percent for cases treated by regular doctors of the time (1). These same remedies used in the early 1900s are still just as successfully utilized today.
The list of common flu symptoms varies slightly between individuals but often includes many of the following: fever, chills, sweats, aches, fatigue, headache, cough, sore throat, diarrhea and so on.
One of the main features of homeopathy is observing the unique way in which each individual manifests his or her symptoms. Whatever the ailment, the prescriber gathers clues needed for an appropriate prescription, by determining which symptoms are most prominent, or characteristic, in any given case. In the case of flu, the unique symptom pattern of the sick individual allows the prescriber to choose a corresponding homeopathic medicine that closely matches the strongest symptoms. Often what has preceded the illness in terms of other health issues or stresses can be a clue to the correct remedy too.
Learning to use some basic homeopathic remedies and building up your own homeopathic “first aid” kit at home can give you gentle relief from otherwise debilitating symptoms.
All remedies can be purchased in suitable strengths (potencies) and safely used at home – your local homeopath or health food assistant will help you with prescribing correctly. In general, a 30c potency is a safe one to use and for acute symptoms, it can be given at half-hourly intervals for up to 6 doses. If the patient has not experienced some change or improvement in symptoms by then, it is likely you have a close remedy but not the correct one. It is then that you need to differentiate the specifics of remedies further to find a more suitable one.
Remedies to use in the first stages of fever or flu:
Aconite: The main clue here is the sudden onset of symptoms, usually high fever, especially after exposure to very cold, dry windy weather. The person is often anxious, and feels worse in a warm room and worse at night, especially approaching midnight. They may have a tickly cough, sneezing, and a clear runny nose.
Belladonna: Again, symptoms come on severely about 3-4 pm, with bright red or flushed cheeks and a sudden fever where they feel as if all the blood has rushed to the head giving them a throbbing headache. As time progresses, the patient may have dilated pupils and a little bit of delirium – they can also be irritable and snappy. They will be thirstless except perhaps for lemon drinks and may have a strawberry red or spotted tongue.
Nux vomica: The person who needs this medicine is very chilly and usually has some type of digestive complaints like nausea or intestinal cramping pains. The person may be so cold that just moving the hand to a cool spot on the bed may send chills through the body. Unlike Arsenicum, which is also quite chilly, this person is usually unafraid. The onset of Nux Vomica flu can be after a period of overwork, lack of sleep or overindulgence in rich foods or alcohol.
Gelsemium: Onset of symptoms when this remedy is needed, are often slower. The emphasis here is on drowsiness, sleepiness, and fatigue. The person often sleeps all night, additional hours during the day, and is still exhausted. They experience chills & complaints of being cold and achy. Often their cheeks are flushed a dusky red and there is a decrease in the normal level of thirst. It is as if the person is just too tired to bother to drink. This medicine may be easily confused with Bryonia, which lies in bed all day because motion aggravates the symptoms. Gelsemium lies there all day out of sheer fatigue.
Bryonia: One of the most frequently indicated flu medicines. The emphasis is on the fact that motion worsens all symptoms. The person prefers to remain quiet and still, preferably in a darkened room. There is often a headache, dry cough, and body aches, all of which are worse from moving around. The patient may even hold their head or chest when coughing to keep the body still – a reinforcement of how little they like movement! The person can be irritable and likes to be left alone. They may be chilly, and this or a fever tends to spike around 9 p.m. There tends to be a thirst for cold drinks, which the person gulps down at long intervals.
Arsenicum: Often the person needing this remedy will experience the onset or worsening of illness in the middle of the night, especially between 1 and 2 a.m. The person may wake with chills, diarrhea or vomiting at this time. Likewise, the symptoms may flare up again at the same time the next night. The person is often anxious, may fear that he/she is seriously ill, and prefers not to be left alone. He/she is usually quite chilly and desires frequent small sips of the liquid. Unlike the previous two medicines, this one is anxious and restless and is, therefore, not likely to lie still. They may even be anxious about details like keeping up with work tasks although they are so unwell.
Eupatorium: The “keynote” symptom for this remedy is bone pain. Most flu sufferers complaint of muscle aches, but this medicine is best suited for individuals who complain of aching pain in their bones — as if they are broken. This flu often begins in the morning with chills first, followed by fever. In spite of feeling cold, there is a desire for cold drinks.
Rhus tox: This flu may come on after exposure to cold, damp wet weather. Stiffness and pain cause the person to be restless, tossing and turning in bed. This person frequently changes positions in order to be physically comfortable. Often a sore throat or sometimes even an itchy rash will accompany this flu picture.
Phosphorus: This type of flu can quickly go to the chest. Patients will generally complain of symptoms going straight to their lungs or a feeling of constriction or heaviness there. There is a strong desire for large quantities of cold drinks, and the person prefers to have the company of another person.
Never well since the flu: For some individuals, the effects of a bout of flu can be long-lasting. Sometimes it can take a prolonged period of time to get rid of the remaining symptoms, especially fatigue and aching. These can become chronic symptoms.
Individualized homeopathic treatment can be effective in restoring one’s vitality, however, this is a complex issue that should be handled by a homeopathic professional. Always see a qualified homeopath if symptoms persist.
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(1) W.A. Dewey, M.D., University of Michigan, Homeopathy in Influenza – A Chorus of Fifty in Harmony, Journal of the American Institute of Homeopathy, May 1921
(2)Roger Morrison, M.D, Desktop Guide to Keynote and Confirmatory Symptoms, Hahnemann Clinic Publishing, California, 1993