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Understanding the Flu: How Do I Know if I Have It?

Herbs and Dietary Supplements

Many claims have been made, but there isn't enough research demonstrating any benefit of many herbs, including garlic and ginseng. Garlic is known to prevent the blood from clotting, so if you're on "blood thinners," it could present a problem.

Garlic's active ingredient, allicin, can be found in a wide range of supplements; yet, recent studies have shown the actual amount you get may vary greatly, and often, you get very little of it. If you feel that garlic is important for your health, the fresh variety may be the best choice.

There are few well-designed studies on how these herbs and supplements treat and prevent influenza. But one trial of ginseng suggested that it may enhance the effect of the flu vaccine.

There are some studies to suggest that Echinacea may enhance how your immune system protects you from the flu, but evidence is mixed on its ability to treat upper respiratory infections once you've come down with the flu. Most likely to help are extracts from fresh or recently dried whole plants of the species Echinacea purpurea or Echinacea angustofolia or roots of Echinacea pallida. Take small doses for no more than eight weeks, since prolonged use may suppress your immune system. Be sure to consult your medical doctor before you start taking this supplement, since some people may be allergic to it.

Drinking ginger tea several times a day can bring relief for flu sufferers. Try a tea of coriander, cinnamon, and ginger for fever reduction. Goldenseal may work to reduce fever. Numerous other herbs, including elderflower, myrrh, willow bark, rose hips, honeysuckle flowers and boneset, could bring relief from the many symptoms that accompany the flu.


Raised body temperature, respiration, pulse and blood pressure may be lowered through acupuncture treatment in some cases of severe colds and flu. The World Health Organization supports the use of acupuncture for respiratory and infectious complications of the flu.


WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Kimball Johnson, MD on October 28, 2012

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