Saturday, September 25, 2010

Green Man's Guide To the Flu: Part 2 -- Dealing with the Flu

So, despite all your best efforts, you get the flu. What should you do?

First and foremost: go to bed. And do not get up for a week. You will feel better on the third day and be tempted to go back to work. Don't. People who don't get enough rest when they have the flu are more prone to secondary respiratory infections that can turn into pneumonia.

Secondly, reach for Elderberries. In most any form -- tincture, elixir, syrup. Tea would be fine but you'll likely have a hard time getting enough of it into your system to have the desired effect if you are feeling nauseated. Take it every hour that you are awake -- at least a teaspoon of syrup or a dropper of tincture or elixir. Elderberries stop viral replication and also modulate your immune response, limiting the inflammatory cytokines that flood your system a few days into an influenza infection. Respiratory inflammation is the second leading cause of death or serious illness associated with flu, after secondary infection. Excessive exertion is usually a contributing factor here.

Keep taking your Vitamin D3. It will modulate the immune response in your respiratory tract as well.

You can address respiratory inflammation directly with cooling herbs that have an affinity for the respiratory system: Elder flower works wonders here. Peach leaf is cooling to the lungs and also calming to the digestive system. Pleurisy Root brings down inflammation in the lungs while also helping to regulate fluid levels. Wild Cherry bark or leaf are ideal for calming racking coughs, cooling inflammation, and helping you get to sleep -- indicated when the cheeks turn cherry red. Marsh Mallow, Slippery Elm, and Siberian Elm will help to moisten the mucus membranes, making coughs more productive.

If you are feeling nauseated, take small sips of Ginger tea. You just need a little bit of Ginger to calm your stomach.

At the outset you will likely feel cold. Wrap yourself in blankets. Take warm baths. Put some Thyme in an old sock and throw it in your bath. Drink Ginger tea.

After a while, your temperature will begin to rise and you will develop a fever. Fever is your friend -- it helps to kill off influenza viruses and any opportunistic pathogens that may follow in their wake. Fevers that develop in response to infection will not rise to dangerous levels. The only reason to treat a fever is to make yourself more comfortable.

Stay hydrated, stay in bed, and do not eat until the fever breaks.

Avoid acetaminophen and NSAID's (ibuprofen, aspirin, etc.) at all costs. They suppress fevers and also suppress immune responses in the respiratory tract. They also damage your gut.

If your fever becomes uncomfortable, use diaphoretic herbs -- herbs that work with your body's natural fever response rather than suppressing it.

Stimulating diaphoretics like Ginger, Osha, Cayenne, and Thyme help the body move heat from the core out to the periphery. They are ideal when you are feeling weak and miserable.

Relaxing diaphoretics like Elder flower, Vervain, and Pleurisy Root help to relax tension at the surface to allow heat to escape. They are ideal when you are feeling tense, especially if you are hot but unable to sweat.

Some plants like Catnip, Yarrow, and Lemonbalm combine these actions.

Boneset is ideal for alternating fever and chills or for a fever accompanied by pain that feels like it goes down to the bone -- it also helps with the general body aches that come with the flu.

Teas are ideal here since they keep the body hydrated, but tinctures will do in a pinch or if nausea makes teas difficult.

Once the fever goes below 99 degrees begin slowly reintroducing food, starting with something easily digested and deeply nourishing like bone broth. Avoid chills. And keep taking it easy.

Trust your body, and give it the time it needs to heal. It may be hard to give yourself a week of rest -- but remember you may be saving yourself a month or more of dealing with bronchitis or pneumonia.

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