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Treating Influenza with Local Herbs

A few weeks ago the seasonal influenza hit my family. And when I say 'hit' I mean that it felt like I'd been hit by a bus. It was awful!

After I got it, it made it's way through my family and took out a few close friends too. Each of us, in turn, was in bed for about a week.

Have you had it?

The aches were the worst I've thing experienced since I actually was hit by a car. The fever lasted for days and with it came incredible chills.

For me, that stage lasted about three days. But for my partner and son, it was closer to a week.

When my nose started to run and some of my energy started to return, I though I was on the mend. I was up and around. I was starting to eat again. And then, wham, it knocked me back to bed for another whole day.

I got it first, so I was the first one to get better. That meant that I got to see this virus run through 7 people. And, for a few of them I got to treat them. (I say 'got to treat' because I love it. It's such an honour to me to be of service in such an intimate way.)

So, let's get to the juicy stuff about what I learned about treating this particular influenza.

First, notice that I call it influenza and not the flu. That's because the flu tends to refer to a stomach flu - a virus that causes nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea. In this case, I'm referring to a virus that largely affects the lungs and respiratory system.

With this influenza, I noticed 3 distinct stages.

First, is the one I mentioned above:

  • very low energy
  • fever that lasts for days
  • though tends not to run too hot (meaning scary high - above 40)
  • will occasionally spike, but responds well to treatment
  • incredible chills - sometimes oscillating between feeling really hot and really cold
  • strong aches throughout the body, but seems to affect the neck and the base of the skull
  • headache at the base of the skull, in the temples and in/behind the eyes
  • ear infection - not everyone got this

I'll be honest, I didn't do a great job of treating myself during this first stage. That would've required getting out of bed.

That is, until the ear infection started. That motivated me to find my garlic infused oil in a hurry. Three doses of 2 ml of oil in my ear for 5 minutes took care of it. My sleeping all day was hardly interrupted.

When I did get up, I went straight for the Yarrow. But sadly, it didn't help much. While treating everyone else, I also noticed that it didn't do much for them. (despite the chills being a specific indication for it).

I found Willow to be the most effective herb to soothing the fever and profoundly relieving the aches and pains. For my partner, a dose of 4-5 ml of tincture (almost a teaspoon) every couple of hours was a godsend. It had almost immediate effect and allowed her to sleep more peacefully.

I treated my son's fever with Elder flower tincture. This almost always reduces his fever and this time it hit the spot again. I dose him - and other kids - at a rate of 1 drop per pound.

I also used Cottonwood bud to help with the chills. This was my replacement for Yarrow. Cottonwood warms the body quite well. You can feel a warmth in your chest shortly after taking a dose. With chills that come with fever, it points to a need to increase the body's chi - warm the person from the inside.

This is a great segue to stage two:

  • runny nose
  • mounting congestion in both sinuses and lungs
  • cough often with post-nasal drip

Again, Cottonwood is a great herb for these symptoms. It's a great expectorant - softens mucous and assists the body to expel it (ie. cough it up).

This worked great for me. I was taking 5 ml of tincture 5 times per day. After a day or two of this, I was starting to feel like myself again.

But this didn't work for everyone. It was too warming for some. In these cases, I went to a favourite of mine... Elecampagne.

I gave 3-4 ml of tincture 4-5 times per day to relieve the congestion.

Again, this herb is a great herb to help with stage three:

  • lingering cough - can last for a week or two
    • in theory, this can lead to a hot, dry, sore throat from the persistent cough
    • I didn't actually see this with this virus


As I said, Elecampagne continues to clear the lungs and sinuses of mucous. Now, this plant is not local to the northwest, but it is local to my medicinal garden.

One last thing that I'll mention is that I needed to stop my son's cough one night. I'm not a fan of suppressing symptoms, but when a cough is unproductive (no mucous) and sleep is being hampered by it, I turn to Cherry bark.

In this case, it was a cherry bark tea sweetened with raw honey. Honey, on its own, has been proven in studies to be more effective and relieving coughs than any pharmaceutical cough remedy. So together, they make a very drinkable tea that allows someone to get the sleep they need to recover.

Most of these herbs are found around Vancouver. They can be made into medicines that are easy to make and very effective.

If you'd like to learn how to do this, I invite you to join the Herbal Integration Course this year. Read more about it --> Herbal Integration Course. If you have any questions at all, please ask.

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Comment by Mary Bennett on February 3, 2013 at 8:23pm

Thanks for posting this thorough and interesting note. I have finally recovered, but I'll remember it's there for next time!

Comment by garliq on January 30, 2013 at 12:31pm

thanks Ross.

we're all better now. these days i get a little excited when we get sick because i get to learn and then share. holistic approaches to health require shifting our view of illness. it's unpleasant, but it's growth (like that little seedling in the right sidebar).

I hope you're well these days. it's been ages since we've seen each other. keep up the great work. you've helped focus a movement and create much needed community.

strength & wisdom.

Comment by Ross Moster on January 28, 2013 at 12:11am

Hey Garliq,

I'm glad to hear you're feeling better. There is some really nasty stuff going around around, and it sounds like it caught you and your family full force.

The Herbal Integration Course sounds great. Thanks for offering it.

Stay well,

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