there’s been a lot of talk about the swine flu and how to prepare it lately online. a lot of scary talk, from mandatory vaccines (which incidentally, the manufacturers have just had a law passed on their behalf which holds them unresponsible for any side affects that might occur from said vaccination) to quarantines and more.
many people are wondering what to do to prepare for the flu, to help prevent it, how to lessen the severity and duration and how to avoid the secondary bacterial infections that can occur from complications of it. i hope to be able to touch on all these things and give you a starting point for feeling confident in preventing and/or treating any cases of the flu that might come into your home. today i’ll cover what to do to prevent the flu from entering your home.
first of all, to vaccinate or not? honestly, that is a personal decision that you alone have to decide. i can tell you that research has proven that the flu vaccination (for any flu, not just the swine flu) will NOT prevent the flu. it will only lessen the duration of the flu by 1-2 days and lessen the severity of it. also, the vaccination needs to be taken at least 10 days before the flu is contracted to be effective. herbalist michael tierra recommends taking homeopathic thuja occidentalis 30x starting 2 days after vaccinating for 3 days, 3 times a day, with a dosage of 10-20 drops for liquid or 4-5 for pellets. he recommends taking this for prevention and to treat reactions, including guillain-barre syndrome (which is one of the side effects of the swine flu vaccine).
whether or not you decide to vaccinate, there are precautions you can take to avoid the flu. one of the most obvious is hygiene. frequent hand washing is a must. watching what you touch in public, possibly bringing along your own alcohol wipes to wipe off shopping carts and your hands is a great idea. most public places offer handy wipes and while i generally wouldn’t use them, for this time of year, it’s a smart choice.
~as an aside, if you do get the flu and your doctor recommends tamiflu, please be aware it is only helpful if taken in the first 1-2 days of contracting the flu and will not ‘cure’ you of the flu but only lessen the duration and severity….see a pattern here?!~
getting large dosages of vitamin d3 to keep our vit d levels up has been proven effective for preventing the flu. the problem with us folks in the northern hemisphere is that no matter how much time we spend outdoors this time of year, we are not going to get the necessary amounts of vitamin d into our system because the angle of the sun/earth will not allow it which causes many people to become vitamin d deficient in the winter months. paul bergner recommends going to a tanning booth 3 times a week for 20 minutes, using a tanning bed with uvb rays. (if you go this route, make sure you specify you want a uvb bed as most beds are calibrated for uva). this is too short of a time to get sunburn or cancer is the most natural way to get vitamin d3 this time of year (funny, i never thought i’d recommend a tanning bed as ‘natural’ but here ya go!). another way to get vitamin d3 is to take 4-5000 iu a day. there has also been some suggestion of eating sun-dried mushrooms which contain vitamin d2, another useful form of vitamin d that could also be effective. a third way of getting enough vitamin d would be to visit south florida or mexico during the winter and hang outside between 11-1, exposing as much as your body as possible (your face does not absorb enough vitamin d on its own).
diet plays a large role in remaining healthy as well. avoiding the usual recommendations of processed and refined foods, eating lots of dark, leafy greens, drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day all have their merit. cooking bone broths and using them for daily cooking in place of water (for rice, beans, soups, etc) are another great way to get lots of valuable nutrients. adding 4-6 ‘sticks’ of astragalus roots to a soup/broth once a week will give your entire family a huge immune supporting and building herbal treatment without them even knowing it. garlic is another great herb to try to consume daily. rosemary gladstar has a great recipe for pickled garlic. unfortunately, it takes 12 weeks to completely process but it’s great to have on hand any time of the year! here’s my version of it:
peel as many cloves of garlic as you’d like. i generally fill 1 quart jar full of them. try not to nick the cloves as they will become discolored. fill the jar full of either tamari or apple cider vinegar. i usually make 1 jar of each because they both are tasty! label and set aside for 6 weeks. after 6 weeks, strain off half of the tamari or vinegar and top the jar back off with raw honey. shake well to mix and then set aside for 6 more weeks. now it’s ready to consume! eat a couple a day to keep the germs away! these make tasty gifts as well. if you start a batch today, they will be ready on december 17! just in time to give away to family and friends for the holidays and possibly even enough time to save yourself from the flu season (jan – mar is typically the hardest hit time).
exercising daily is important as it keeps the blood from getting stagnant. exercising outdoors is preferable so that your lungs can breathe in fresh air. something as simple as stretching or yoga every day is the perfect way to begin your day, especially if done outside. it’s an invigorating and wonderful way to start the day!
other important factors are adequate sleep, lowering stress levels and having a happy outlook on life.
one final factor is using herbs to help prevent the flu from arriving on your doorstep. i’ve already mentioned using garlic and astragalus in your daily/weekly cooking. burdock is another great nourishing root that is quite delicious when cooked right! here’s a great recipe to try it out:
2 cups sliced Burdock root (about 4-5 medium-sized roots)
5 or 6 Wild Leeks (can substitute 6-8 cloves garlic)
2 Tbsp olive oil
Thai peanut Sauce* (find at a local co-op or ethnic food section of grocery store)
1 cup wild rice, uncooked
Cover washed and sliced fresh burdock roots in 2 cups water with ½ tsp baking soda. Bring to a boil, pour off the water. Cover with fresh water and boil gently until burdock is very tender, about 10 minutes. Drain thoroughly, put into a skillet. (Note: cast iron may discolor the burdock root)
Add chopped leeks or garlic. Sauté in 2 Tbsp olive oil for 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile cook wild rice in 2 cups water, 20-30 minutes. Mix sautéed burdock with cooked rice. Add ½ cup Thai peanut sauce. Serve hot or cold.
*Can substitute any favorite stir-fry sauce for the Thai peanut sauce
burdock root can be found growing all over the place or in your local asian grocer. it is also known as gobo.you can add some chopped root to any soup base. just be sure to follow this method before adding to stocks or soups to make it palatable:
cover washed and sliced fresh burdock roots in 2 cups water with ½ tsp baking soda. bring to a boil, pour off the water. cover with fresh water and boil gently until burdock is very tender, about 10 minutes.
elderberry is another great herb to take that has shown to be prophylactic for the flu. unlike echinacea which should only be taken for a short period of time, elderberry can be taken daily for long periods of time. it’s great as a tincture (glycerin is actually best because it draws out the constituents better than alcohol), syrup or elixir. taking a ‘touch of the recipe’ as the ballwin sisters were known to do on occasion on the waltons, is actually a wise choice for this time of the year, especially when elderberry is involved!
echinacea can be taken as well but i’m backing down on recommending this because of conflicting information about the ‘cytokine storms’ inhibition. i think early on, it is great to help as a preventative but once the flu hits, i would stop use immediately. since this post is already so long, i will not go into detail about this subject but if you are interested in learning more, you can google cytokine storms and echinacea to get more details.
all these factors boil down to having a better chance of avoiding the flu or lessening the duration and severity of it. if you are stricken with the flu, don’t panic, for most of us, a few days in bed, lots of nourishing bone broths and/or miso, herbal teas (think antivirals such as lemon balm, peppermint, licorice, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, boneset, chamomile and st. john’s wort) to help support the body without wildly stimulating the immune system and lots of ginger, garlic, elderberry and astragalus will be the key to a quick recovery and lack of secondary bacterial infections.
next month, i’ll go more in depth on what to do while you have the flu.