Midnight Sun Herbal Health

A Complementary and Alternative Health Practice

Chinese Medicine and viral influenza

While the flu strain H1N1 is a different virus than we have perhaps dealt with before, prevention of and treatment for this particular virus is no different than any other flu virus. It is important to remember not to panic. There was probably been more hype than stricktly necessary. Do take precautions however, many people get really sick every year from flu. Take measures to keep your immune system up, wash hands freequently, cough into the crook of your elbow to avoid spreading these easily transmittable viruses by air, get enough sleep and eat as healthily as you can. Keep yourself safe by using common sense and follow news from reliable soures and factual advise. Teach your children to be safe as well.

Getting immunization is a personal decision that you should discuss with your physician. Personally I have not been vaccinated for years and won't this year either, but then I rarely get ill. If you have any questions or concerns about this or any other health problem, please ask.


The following article is by:

Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon, March 2006

Exerpt from article on the Avian flue pandemic. For full article go to Institute for Traditional Medicine www.itemonline.org/arts/flu


Unlike the vaccines, which are made in response to flu strains as they appear, Chinese herb therapies for influenza are not specific for the viral strain. Instead, they may provide general actions, such as to help boost the immune response so that it is able to eliminate the virus faster. At high enough dosage the herbs may have some direct inhibitory effects on viral reproduction; they may also ameliorate some of the symptoms, thus making a serious infection seem mild.

Instead of having a single herb or a single formulation as the response to flu, there are a collection of herbs and formulas that have developed a good reputation. During the period from the 1950s to the 1970s, several large scale studies were undertaken in China to evaluate the use of traditional herb formulas and newer herbal remedies to prevent and treat influenza, with favorable results reported for several compounds. These findings appeared in medical journals and in books summarizing progress in Chinese herb research. The information has been gathered at ITM, while many of those original publications are no longer available due to limited print runs. While there is insufficient proof from these studies that Chinese herbal therapies can cure or impede influenza because of problems in methodology and reporting, practitioners of Chinese medicine and their patients are convinced of the efficacy of this approach.

Routine prescription of Chinese herbs for influenza or other therapeutic applications remains limited primarily to the countries where herbal medicine is officially recognized, such as China, Japan, and Korea. In other countries, the herbs have been made available mainly through the work of licensed acupuncturists, naturopaths, and other non-M.D. practitioners, as well as through direct marketing of products to consumers.

The non-toxic herbs found useful in these studies have been incorporated into formulations that ITM has produced for practitioners to use. Several of the formulations, such as Ilex 15, have been available for more than 15 years, so that there is some experience gained through several influenza seasons.

Practitioners of Chinese medicine in the U.S., Canada, and Europe will be called upon to provide natural therapies for influenza this year as before, with a potential for higher demand and with more concern about prevention strategies. Even though such therapies are not proven to be effective, many people will feel the need to do everything that seems reasonably possible. Thus, it is worthwhile to review the therapeutic approach described by the Chinese and to offer some of the readily available remedies (ITM formulary items will be described here; others are easily obtained).


Chinese herb therapy, applied to address the first signs of influenza, might prevent the infection from developing into the full symptomatic disease. For persons who are highly susceptible to influenza and those who tend to experience severe symptoms, as well as during influenza seasons that are defined as being highly virulent or dangerous, it may be prudent to treat even the initial symptoms as though a severe disease was about to develop. These herbal remedies would be used in persons who are developing symptoms despite having been vaccinated (since there is the possibility of vaccine failure, especially later in the season when new strains might dominate) and could also be used along with drugs such as Tamiflu, which are not completely efficacious on their own.



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