Decreasing temperatures and buttoned up houses open the starting gates for flu season.
Soon we will either be afflicted or know someone that is experiencing a virus.
Many will suffer from the seasonal flu and some will suffer from H1N1, or swine flu.
The word influenza comes from an Italian word meaning “to influence”. Some refer to stomach illness as “stomach flu”, but that reference is not accurate, as influenza is strictly a respiratory illness.
There are three types of flu that affect humans.
Type C- This type affects humans and pigs but is generally weak.
Type B- affects humans and seals. This type is stronger and mutates slowly.
Type A- Affects birds, humans and pigs, is stronger still and mutates in two different ways. Different strains can be found during the same year in different geographical locations. This type can cause pandemics and was responsible for the “Spanish flu epidemic” of the early 1900s.
Each year the “flu shot” contains two Type A strains, one “regular” and one “swine flu” variety and one Type B strain. The exact strains are different every year. Because it constantly mutates and changes, there can be hundreds to thousands of different strains of the flu to choose from. Sometimes the flu shot contains the appropriate strains for that year, sometimes it is partially accurate and other times it can be completely wrong.
Symptoms of the flu and swine flu are similar. They include fever, sore throat, aches, headache, chills, cough and congestion. Swine flu symptoms may also include diarrhea and vomiting.
Seasonal influenza kills approximately 36,000 people a year. It disproportionately affects the very young, the old, and those who are immunocompromised.
That is not always the case, however. The 1918 Spanish flu pandemic took 50 to 100 million lives worldwide with 60% being between the ages of five and twenty four and another 20% being less than 50!
Cytokines, which are an important part of the immune system, usually regulate the intensity and duration of the immune response. This particular strain caused an extremely exaggerated reaction, or “cytokine storm”. Too many cytokines were released into the lungs of the ill and the inflammation reaction it caused, literally drowned them. The better the immune system response, the greater chance of death!
Historically, flu pandemics occur regularly, the most recent being the swine flu epidemic of 2009, so you should always be prepared.
Viruses’ structure includes a long string of viral RNA basically covered in a fat ball with spikes- a way to gain entry into our cells and neuroaminidase, which allows it to move on to infect another cell.
If it is not able to use our body as a host to replicate itself, it dies after a few days.
- Kill it before it gets in
- Don’t let it in
- Decrease its ability to replicate
Herbal essential oils are a great way to kill the virus before it gets in. Essential oils can be added to hand soap, blended and added to white vinegar to make a wonderful “killer spray” or even used as inhalants (putting a few drops into steaming hot water, covering your head and the bowl with a towel and inhaling).
Some antiviral herbs include: lemon balm, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, yarrow, sage, lavender, peppermint, orange and lemon.
“Thieves oil” is a blend of clove bud, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus and rosemary oils (and you can add or subtract other antiviral essential oils) that you can make at home, add to vinegar in a spray bottle and use on household surfaces. It is called “thieves oil” because as legend goes, during the black plague, thieves would steal from the dead and not become infected because they had rubbed themselves with this highly potent oil.
Washing your hands is the #1 way to stop the virus from getting in to your body. The soap need not be antibacterial or antiviral, just the action of soaping up and scrubbing your hands can send those bugs down the drain.
The flu can be spread by droplet transmission. That means it can travel through the air after a cough or a sneeze and end up in your nose or mouth with an easy path to your lungs.
Other ways to contract the flu are through saliva or mucous. Don’t kiss anyone that is sick and avoid sharing food or utensils. Also, avoid rubbing your eyes or biting your nails. Blood and feces can also transmit the virus.
Keeping your immune system in tip top shape is important too. Eating lots of veggies and adding in some exercise tops that list of course, but staying away from sweets is a REALLY close second!
Ingestion of sugar decreases the ability of the immune system to fight invaders for hours after consumption, so choose that savory Christmas party treat rather than the sweet one!
After you have been to a gathering, a populated work office or shopping area, swabbing the inside of your nose and gargling with salt water can be a virus reducing option.
Elderberry is a wonderful and tasty virus halting herb to use as well. Read about elderberry HERE. You can even make your own elderberry teas, tinctures and syrups that you can use as food or “medicine”.
Next we will talk about a few recipes for cough syrups, nutrient supplementation and homemade cough drops!