Data from last year’s flu season shows that the influenza vaccine was only effective in 23% of people, and yet the government is pushing hard again this year for employers to vaccinate their staff and for the general public to “protect” their children and themselves. Even then, the flu vaccination does not guarantee protection from infection, merely a mild reduction in symptoms. If the flu strains are different from the ones given in the vaccine (which happens frequently), then the shot provides absolutely no protection at all!
It makes far more sense to support the immune system naturally, bolstering against attacks not just from flu, but the other winter nasties like coughs, colds and chest infections that are commonly seen at this time of year.
Natural medicine protects against ALL forms of flu.
Fortunately, naturopaths are armed with an arsenal of weapons against this unwanted visitor. Herbs like Echinacea, Andrographis, Cats Claw and Dandelion are proven antivirals and are effective at treating flu. Medicinal mushrooms like Reishi and Shiitake have an amazing capacity to stimulate an immune response against the flu and many other infections.
Nutritional support is crucial for long-term good health and immune function. Eating a diet high in fibre supports gut flora; fruit and vegetables replenish essential vitamins and minerals needed to reinforce the immune system during times of stress. Protein is another important component of the diet that must not be overlooked. It provides amino acids needed by the body for biochemical signalling, detoxification, immune function and repair.
Boosting natural immunity starts in the kitchen!
Winter is a great time to use slow cookers, make casseroles and curries – all dishes that can be embellished with warming herbs and spices. Rosemary and thyme are terrific upper respiratory herbs and common additions to these types of seasonal winter dishes.
Herbal teas are another great way to keep you warm whilst stimulating immunity. Peppermint, Echinacea, Ginger, and Elder Flower teas assist the immune system and provide symptomatic relief from runny noses, fevers, aches and pains.
What about nutritional medicine?
There are many vitamins and minerals required by the immune system and these are often depleted during illness. Vitamin C protects against infection and enhances immunity, as a result of its stimulating effect on white blood cells.
Zinc is an important cofactor in immunity due its role in developing and activating T and B cells, and maintenance of mucosal barriers in the respiratory tract and gut.
Vitamin A also supports internal barriers and is a strong antioxidant. It should not be taken in amounts greater than 5000IU/day during pregnancy.
Humans have survived for thousands of years by living off what nature has provided for us. Herbal and nutritional remedies do not experience microbial resistance like vaccines and antibiotics, and have no side effects. They work in harmony with the body, and are a very safe and effective alternative for avoiding common winter ailments.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/vaccineeffect.htm
 Lindenmuth, G.F & Lindenmuth, E.B. The efficacy of echinacea compound herbal tea preparation on the severity and duration of upper respiratory andflu symptoms: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine. 2000 Aug;6(4):327-34.
 Wen, H et al. Anti-influenza virus effect of aqueous extracts from dandelion. Virology Journal. 2011; 8: 538.