WHY FEAR THE FLU?
Fear of the flu stems historically from a devastating world wide pandemic of 1918-19, known as the Spanish Flu. Fortunately such a widely fatal acute epidemic has not occurred since. It has been estimated that 50-100 million people died worldwide, and in the United States the death toll during the Spanish Flu was approximately 550,000, or 10% of the people afflicted. Homeopathic physicians documented more than 62,000 Spanish Flu patients treated with homeopathy, resulting in a mortality rate of 0.7%. Of those sick enough to be hospitalized, conventional medicine had a mortality rate of 30%, while in the homeopathic medical community, with 27,000 documented hospitalized cases, homeopathy was reporting a mortality of 1.05% (Journal of the American Institute of Homeopathy 1921; 13:1028-43).
WHAT IS IT?
The flu is an acute infectious disease spread by a virus and most often transmitted by means of respiratory discharges from infected hosts. Pneumonia is the most important complication and is responsible for most fatalities, usually caused by secondary bacterial infections. The elderly are most prone to develop this complication, but anyone who has compromised immunity is susceptible.
The flu vaccine is the most popular way our culture has to deal with the flu. The flu vaccine involves the use of attenuated solutions of viruses encountered in previous flu years. Each year flu strains may mutate however slightly. The current flu shot thus ends up not being effective for the year’s new strain. Moreover, those sensitive to the inoculation and the mercury fillers found in the flu shot formulation may develop flu symptoms and other side effects induced by the vaccine itself, including a more chronically compromised immune system!
How often and how badly we experience the flu depends on the health of our immune system, including our history of exposure to the flu and how our body reacted in the past. The best way to an improved immune system is a healthy life style, in the form of good nutrition, including garlic (if you’re not sensitive to it), extra vitamin C (up to 5000 mg or more during a flu or any other acute condition, when our body needs this vitamin for quicker recovery), exercise, and rest. If however you are already doing everything right and yet are still coming down with the flu, homeopathic medicine offers a safe and effective holistic approach to enhancing your overall wellbeing, with no harmful side-effects.
TAILOR-MADE: THE HOMEOPATHIC WAY
A homeopathic treatment works best when tailored to you and your unique coping style. A homeopathic doctor looks to understand what is unique about each person’s way of experiencing their condition. How you experience the flu, how it makes you feel (tired, restless, chilly, painful, time of day when it is worse or better, whether thirsty or not, etc), and how you differ from others with the flu, helps the homeopathic doctor prescribe a medicine suitable to your natural defense mechanism.
DIFFERENT STROKES FOR DIFFERENT FOLKS
When a flu epidemic strikes, we don’t all suffer the same way. Several people suffering the flu may all experience it differently, which may lead the homeopathic physician to several different prescriptions for the “same condition”!
HOMEOPATHIC FLU REMEDIES
For instance, one person suffering the flu may be lethargic yet restless. A change of position temporarily relieves their aches and pains, so they constantly keep moving. This person would need Rhus-tox (a preparation of poison ivy!).
Another person’s flue may feel much worse with motion. They want to keep still, and each time they’re disturbed they get very irritable. This person would need Bryonia (Wild Hops).
A third flu patient will feel so weak and tired, they can hardly keep their eyes open from the weariness. If questioned about how they feel, they’ll mumble incoherently, so great is their fatigue. This person would need Gelsemium (Yellow Jasmine).
Yet another flu sufferer will have changeable symptoms, sometimes chilly sometimes hot, restlessness followed by listlessness, irritability followed by weepiness and a sense of ‘poor me’. They would need Pulsatilla (Wind Flower).
THE VALUE OF SYMPTOMS
Symptoms are an expression of our body’s natural defenses in action. Symptoms like fever, aches and pains, and malaise, are used in homeopathy to guide the physician to what might be medicinal for your nature. The goal for a homeopathic physician is to record all symptoms experienced by a sick person. We then prescribe a highly attenuated dose of a substance known to mimic your symptoms.
Provings are the experiments/studies our homeopathic community conducts on healthy volunteers to determine their therapeutic indications. A group of healthy volunteers is given a substance as an experiment. Side effects both physical and emotional are noted. A substance producing side effects most similar to your symptoms is what would be homeopathic to you. The better the match, the quicker the recovery!
In the examples above of homeopathic medicines for flu, the proving of Rhus-tox on healthy people produced restlessness, Bryonia produced an aggravation from motion along with intense irritability, Gelsemium caused severe lethargy (Yellow Jasmine was originally used by pre-Florida natives to stupefy fish, making it easier to catch the fish.), while Pulsatilla produced a weepy mood, changeability of symptoms, along with a need for emotional support and a fear of abandonment.
THE PRINCIPLE OF SIMILARS
Conventional medicine is based on the principle of opposites; oppose pain with a pain-killer, inflammation with an anti-inflammatory, depression with an anti-depressant, etc.
The paradoxical Law of Similars postulates that what produces symptoms in healthy people can cure similar symptoms in the sick. Hence the word ‘homeopathy’, from the Greek words homeo (similar), and pathy (suffering or disease). While it may seem counter-intuitive to take something known to cause symptoms like the flu, it is akin to the concept of immunization, where an attenuated dose of the microbe is administered to build resistance to that microbe.
For instance, when you chop an onion, it produces tears, burning in the eyes, a runny nose, and sneezing, which are symptoms typical of hay fever. Allium cepa, commonly known as red onion, is often indicated as a homeopathic medicine for some who suffer from hay fever. Likewise, why are so many of us hooked on coffee? It’s to keep us awake and alert. A homeopathic preparation of Coffea cruda is at times used homeopathically for people suffering from insomnia.
Our body has the ability to heal itself. Promoting this ability results in prevention. By harnessing our natural defense mechanism, homeopathic medicines can help in both prevention, and in helping us recover should we develop the flu, with no harmful side-effects.
For the latest research on the history and theories concerning the Spanish flu pandemic, and what could be done to prevent and prepare for such a pandemic, check out this article from the Economist (not that it mentions even a word concerning homeopathy as a complimentary approach to integrate with other responses).