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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

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

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Alternative Medicine

While the scientific evidence of its benefits is sparse, oscillococcinum, a homeopathic mixture, is very popular in Europe as a flu remedy. Other homeopathic preparations have shown some success in treating upper respiratory infections. Be sure your medical doctor knows of everything you are taking -- standard medicine and alternatives.

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. However, recent studies have shown the actual amount you get may vary greatly, and often, you get very little of it. Garlic does have some natural anti-viral properties, but has no proven effectiveness in the prevention or treatment of the flu. If you feel that garlic is important for your health, it’s safe, 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 your immune system, but evidence is mixed on its ability to treat or prevent the flu. If you want to see for yourself, take small doses for no more than eight weeks, because prolonged use may suppress your immune system. Be sure to consult your medical doctor before you start taking this supplement, because some people may be allergic to it.

Drinking ginger tea several times a day may bring relief for flu sufferers. Herbs including elderflower, myrrh, willow bark, rose hips, honeysuckle flowers and boneset may 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 Jennifer Robinson, MD on October 19, 2014

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