blog flu

Preventing and Treating the Flu Naturally


While many reading this may have already gotten the flu, others have not and are yet in the clear until May.

The recent flu is an  H3N2 strain that’s particularly aggressive.

Vaccine companies have updated their medicine to match this years virus. (There is plenty of disagreement if flu vaccines work at all or if they are safe, but that’s a different story for a different day.)

We have exposure to influenza (flu) virus by touching surface’s that are contaminated or by microscopic viral droplets in the air that make their way to our lungs – typically by infected people coughing or sneezing around us.

Here’s the deal: there’s virtually no way to avoid exposure to the flu virus. There are people with no symptoms who have the flu virus and don’t know it and will transfer viral droplets to you. Your job (and mine) is to maximally strengthen the immune system so that our body rids itself of the virus before it penetrates into our lungs and “camp out.”

To protect yourself against the flu is all about strengthening your terrain, the microenvironment, and your body.

What is the flu?

The “flu” is short for the influenza virus. Technically speaking, one gets the flu anywhere between October and May. This period is called the flu season.

What should you do to fight the flu?

Well, you may have already gotten the flu shot. The problem is that the vaccine is developed based on scientists’ prediction of which type of influenza virus (there are many) will be around during the next flu season. Therefore, you may still get the aches, fever, sore throat and drowsiness that come from the influenza virus.

Don’t just vaccinate.

I’m not suggesting for or against vaccinations. However, if you do it the flu vaccine alone will likely not be enough.

  • Wash your hands often. A little OCD here is not a bad idea. And use regular soap. Antibacterial agents are not necessary.


  • Skip midnight shows and sleep more. Record the Stephen Colbert show or Nighttime news if that’s your thing. You’ll find that those around you that sleep less are more vulnerable to getting the flu.


  • Don’t run marathons (literally) during this time. Extreme exercise weakens the immune system.  (Yikes, the NYC marathonis this weekend. Good luck to all runners) Don’t make up your own stories though. 😉 – I’m not saying don’t exercise. I’m suggesting no extreme, ultra-endurance exercises until the flu season is over around May.


  • Consider immune enhancing dietary herbs like Astragalus, Andrographis, Echinacea and Larch arabinogalactanthat has proven to be excellent immune boosters and has anti-viral properties. You may need to see a natural medicine oriented doctor to help you.


  • Active Hexose Correlated Compound (AHCC)has been well studied demonstrating immune modulating capabilities. I would try the above-mentioned herbs and vitamins first. AHCC is more expensive; however, if one is elderly or has a weak immune system then it should be considered and taken until May.

When to go to the hospital when getting the flu.

Feeling achy and feverish is normal. Having a hard time breathing or a relapse of fever after feeling better is not – go to the emergency room. More information HERE on what to look out for before heading to the ER.

Which dietary supplements help prevent and fight the flu?

Vitamin C

You may think that Linus Pauling discovered vitamin C, but it was Albert Szent-Györgyi who won the Nobel Prize for discovering it. Linus Pauling, another Nobel laureate, popularized the use of vitamin C for disease prevention and longevity. Vitamin C has antioxidant properties, regenerates glutathione, and might stimulate neutrophil and monocyte activity. One trial found that patients who took 8 g of vitamin C at the onset of symptoms had more “short colds” (lasting less than a day) than those who took 4 g.

Take 500mg of vitamin C  every two waking hours during flu season (total of 4 to 6 g). Taking more than that is not absorbable and greater than 10 g can cause diarrhea. Also, it is best to take vitamin C with other antioxidants like alpha-lipoic acid and zinc, or with bioflavonoids.  Always take vitamin C with bioflavonoids , such as hesperidin, which is found with vitamin C in citrus fruits .  This is not to say that you should stop consuming fruits and vegetables that contain hesperidin  (or other bioflavonoids), because these vital and healthful foods contain many other constituents (antioxidants and others) that are protective against cancer and possibly cardiovascular disease as well.

Note: sometimes you hear people say that vitamin C does not work to prevent colds and flu. Almost always, the people who say this are taking too low of a dose – usually about 500 mg (0.5g) a day.

For flu risk reduction, vitamin C has to be taken more aggressively.

Garlic (Allium sativum)

The part of the garlic that does the protective magic is allicin. Allicin is released when garlic is chopped or chewed, but cooking deactivates it. Allicin has demonstrated antiviral properties in vitro against rhinovirus (common cold) and several other strains.

One study of 146 healthy adults compared a high-dose of allicin extract (180 mg daily) with placebo for 12 weeks during the winter months. The results were dramatic; the treatment group had 64% fewer colds.

Take 180 mg of allicin. Fresh garlic contains 5 to 9 mg per clove, and most extracts contain less than this. So, that’s about nine cloves of garlic. (The only side-effect reported in the trial was malodorous belching.)

Note: Garlic supplements should be discontinued before a surgical procedure due to their anti-coagulant (blood thinning) effects.


Zinc is an essential mineral essential to hundreds of biochemical pathways, and deficiency is associated with infection risk.

Take 15 to 30 mg a day. If you take more than 30 mg a day, you need about 2 mg of copper to avoid a copper deficiency.

Do not take more than 100mg of zinc in supplement form.


Supplementation with selenium can stimulate the immune system in many ways, like increasing the proliferation of activated T cells. Selenium deficiency is linked to the occurrence or disease progression of some viral infections.

I would recommend taking 200 μg (that’s micrograms) selenium per day to achieve noticeable immune enhancing effects. Taking more than 800 μg per day is not recommended.


Astragalus is a botanical that seems to work mainly with antiviral properties and appears to have a beneficial influence on T-cell activity, which is an important immune modulator. A member of the pea family, this root can be stirred into soups to bolster your immune system during cold and flu season.

Take 2 to 6 grams of astragalus in capsule form daily. Less if it is in a comprehensive formula.


You have seen this homeopathic remedy in health food stores and have wondered if it works, right? Or do you just wonder how to pronounce it?

As with any homeopathic remedy, Oscillococcinum restores health by delivering a highly diluted dose of a substance that produces symptoms of the illness being treated. Here, that substance is the extract of Muscovy duck heart and liver, identified by homeopaths as reservoirs of the influenza virus. A 1998 study from the British Homeopathic Journal gave either Oscillococcinum or a placebo to 372 patients with the flu, finding that the remedy both lessened their symptoms and shortened the duration of sickness. I have no personal experience taking Oscillococcinum (because I stay protected by upgrading my supplement regimen during flu season) but I know many who do and who live by it.

Take one or two tubes of Oscillococcinum once or twice weekly for the flu.

Medicinal mushrooms

Asian traditional doctors have understood the magic of mushrooms for centuries, using shiitake, reishi, maitake, and others to both prevent and treat a variety of ailments. Numerous studies have shown that certain friendly fungi can stimulate immune function. While many medicinal mushrooms are helpful, reishi mushrooms are my favorite as research has found that they have immunostimulant effects.

Vitamin D3

Because your are mostly indoors with little sunlight exposure, your vitamin D levels are likely extremely low. Take between 4000 and 5000 units of vitamin D with food. Always have your doctor check vitamin D levels and make sure you are about 40 to 60 ng/ml.

Protective dietary supplement formulas from excellent manufacturing companies to protect you against the flu.

Designs for Health –  Immunotone plus

Pure Encapsulations – Daily Immune,  Immune Herbs

Vital Nutrients  – Viracon

Thorne – Arabinexvitamin C with flavonoids, and Phytogen

What my patients take?

XY Wellness– my patients, taking the following supplements for prostate health or stop the formation of aberrant cells are noticing fewer colds and flu’s as a favorable side effect. That’s because these formulations are jammed packed with botanicals / nutrients with anti-viral and immune stimulating properties.


INGREDIENTS: Reduced Glutathione, Selenium (SelenoExcell), Alpha Lipoic Acid, Vitamin C, BroccoRaphanine, Zinc, Milk Thistle, Vitamin E mixed tocopherols


INGREDIENTS: Modified Citrus Pectin, Reishi Mushroom, Green Tea Extract, Curcumin, Pomegranate, Grape seed extract and Boswellia

Advanced Prostate Support (APS)– contains two pills of DFH Immunitone plus in it.

Ingredients and what they do:

  • Immune stimulant– Mushrooms, Beta 1,3 glucan, arabinogalactan, Diindolylmethane (DIM), Astragalus, Elderberry, Andrographis, all spice, garlic, basil, sage, Acerola, echinacea,
  • Anti-inflammatory– Curcumin, quercetin,
  • Anti-Cancer– Green tea (EGCG), curcumin, Resveratrol, lycopene, BroccoRaphanine (SGS), rosemary, garlic, grape seed extract
  • Antioxidant– Vitamin E (Complete form), Acid, Lutein, Lycopene., Zinc, goldenseal, acerola, garlic
  • Anti-microbial– Astragalus, garlic, goldenseal, clove, Allspice

As always, these are my recommendations based on my research and experience. I urge you to seek the help of a licensed holistic practitioner for personalized help. Again, go to the hospital if you or someone in your family is experiencing a difficult time breathing or other severe signs and symptoms are present.


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Zhao KS, Mancini C, Doria G. Enhancement of immune response in mice by Astragalus membranaceus extracts. Immunopharmacology 20: 225-34, 1990.

Douglas RM, Hemilä H, Chalker E, Treacy B. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2007;(3):CD000980.

Jackson JL, Lesho E, Peterson C. Zinc and the common cold: a meta-analysis revisited. J Nutr 2000;130(5S Suppl):1512S-5S.

Ankri S, Mirelman D. Antimicrobial properties of allicin from garlic. Microbes Infect 1999;1(2):125-9.

L Kiremidjian-Schumacher, M Roy, HI Wishe, MW Cohen, G Stotzky. Supplementation with selenium and human immune cell functions. Biol Trace Elem Res, 41 (1994), pp. 115–127

EW Taylor, RG Nadimpalli, CS Ramanathan, Genomic structures of viral agents in relation to the biosynthesis of selenoproteins. Biol Trace Elem Res, 56 (1997), pp. 63–91

Jin X, Ruiz Beguerie J, Sze DM, Chan GC.Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi mushroom) for cancer treatment.Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Jun 13;6:CD007731.



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