According to the National Institutes of Health, influenza more commonly known as the flu strikes up to one-fifth of Americans each year. While most cases resolve themselves on their own, the flu can make life miserable. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, sore throat, fatigue, and body aches. Since the flu is caused by a virus, antibiotics won’t help ease your suffering. However, there are a number of natural remedies that can lessen your symptoms and may even nip your illness in the bud.
Ensuring a strong immune system can help you sidestep the flu. That means eating a diet full of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. It’s also important to drink plenty of liquids, especially water. This keeps membranes moist and makes them less susceptible to invasion. If you do come down with the flu, drinking water, tea, juices, and soups also helps keep you hydrated and can provide important nutrients that may help shorten the duration of your flu.
One of the easiest ways to protect yourself from the flu is by simply washing your hands. Soap acts as a vehicle to trap the viruses that are loosened by the act of rubbing your hands together under water so they can be rinsed down the drain. Exercising, getting enough sleep, and reducing stress can also help you resist the flu. A study of 83 healthy young adults who were monitored before, during, and after receiving a flu shot found that those who were under the most stress and got the least sleep were at the highest risk of catching the flu. A 2009 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that getting less than seven hours of sleep can make you 300% more likely to catch a virus.
Elderberry extract: is effective in thwarting the flu virus. A double-blind study of black elderberry extract against ten strains of the influenza virus by the Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem, Israel, found that elderberry stops the flu dead in its tracks by significantly boosting cytokine production. Cytokines are non-antibody proteins that trigger the immune response when they come in contact with a virus. And, unlike pharmaceutical flu vaccines, elderberry stimulates the production of the immune system’s T-cells and blocks viral growth, making it effective against a wide range of influenza viruses. Elderberry is also effective if you do find yourself with the flu. Studies show that elderberry helps flush the virus out of the body by inducing both perspiration and bronchial secretions. And a recent randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 60 flu patients by the University of Oslo and Norway’s National Health Institute found that people taking elderberry extract got relief from their symptoms four days earlier than their placebo-pumping counterparts. Typical dosage: Two teaspoons of a standardized elderberry syrup once per day for prevention. If you have the flu, increase the dosage to 2 teaspoons four times per day.
Olive leaf extract: contains a variety of active constituents including several types of flavonoids that enhance immunity. But its most abundant compound is a potent antiviral called oleuropein. Research in the journal Alternative Medicine Review suggests that olive leaf extract may help prevent and treat garden-variety cases of the flu by inactivating the virus. Typical dosage: 500 mg daily of a supplement standardized to contain 17 to 20 percent oleuropein.
Vitamin D’s: immune-stimulating capabilities have been widely studies in a variety of cancers. But recently, scientists have discovered that vitamin D may also guard against the flu. In fact, kids who took 1,200 IU of vitamin D daily reduced their risk of developing the flu by 58 percent. And women taking 2,000 IU of vitamin D to protect their bones had an average of 30 percent fewer bouts with colds and flu than women taking the standard recommendation of 200 IU. Typical dosage: 2,000 IU daily.