Also called the swine flu, the influenza A strain H1N1 has gotten many people alarmed recently; possibly because of its similarities to the epidemic in 1918 that killed healthy people. Symptoms of this flu are similar to other strains of the flu so diagnosis can only be made by a respiratory swab. Results can take 1-5 days. It was just reported this morning however that a quick test has been developed in China that may come into popular use. The H1N1 flu strain is not one covered by the flu vaccine.

Becoming overly alarmed however will not keep you safe. The best thing to do is to work on prevention. The single most important thing you can do to decrease the spread of the flu is to wash your hands often. Contact is the primary method of transmitting the virus. It can be transmitted from one person’s hands to a doorknob where another person will pick it up and inadvertently touch their nose and infection will begin. Frequent washing of hands can prevent that transmission. Use soap and water to wash, rub your hands for 20-30 seconds, rinse and dry with a clean towel. Antibiotic containing soaps do not do a better job nor do hand sanitizers.
Drugs prescribed for swine flu include Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir). Both of these drugs are neuraminidase inhibitors that prevents the assembly and release of newly made viruses from host cells. Neither of these are without side effects however which include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and headache. Rare side effects include hepatitis and elevated liver enzymes, rash, allergic reactions including anaphylaxis, and Stevens-Johnson syndrome. Also reported have been toxic epidermal necrolysis, cardiac arrhythmia, seizure, confusion, aggravation of diabetes, and hemorrhagic colitis. Viral resistance to these drugs is also a concern.

Keeping a healthy immune system is an important part of prevention. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Their high levels of flavonoids and vitamin C are a good combination for helping the immune system run optimally. They may also have antiviral activity. Many herbs have been found to be effective against viruses in general, but elderberry (Sambucus nigra) and licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) have been shown to specifically have activity against the influenza virus. Elderberry neuraminidase activity, the same activity found in the drug Tamiflu. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) has antiviral and antibacterial activity, is an expectorant, and has been traditionally used to treat respiratory infections successfully. Garlic is a wonderful herb for nearly any type of infection. If you start to feel sick, eating garlic toast is another good (and tasty) option.

You may also have heard some of the many theories about cytokine storm being a major problem with the swine flu and some herbalists recommending against immune stimulators because of that. Keep in mind that this is just a theory and we really do not know how the swine flu will play out. Personally, I think the key is in stimulating the immune system earlier rather than later; before the virus gains its stronghold.

A combination of antiviral, antibacterial and immune stimulating herbs can be found in Sagescript’s Thymaflu product. This herb mixture comes in a small brown bottle. You add alcohol to the product in the form of brandy, rum, vodka or whiskey. Do this as soon as you get it so that it has time to steep to form a tincture – the longer the better. It keeps well with alcohol too. At the very first sign of a cold or flu (scratchy throat, runny nose, cough) begin taking 1 tablespoon of this tincture 2-3 times daily until symptoms pass. Yes, it tastes bad and you can add honey if you like. If you strain the herbs out it is easier but not necessary. Once used up you could add more alcohol to stretch it one time, but after that the tincture becomes too dilute. I’ve made plenty of these jars up to get us through this late flu season but get yours now. Once you add alcohol it can last until next year’s flu season if you end up not using it. Order now at the $4.50 price before it goes to $4.75. Other cold/flu products we have include eucalyptus essential oil to clear the sinuses of congestion ($3.25), St. Blaise room and surface spray ($6.95) and Herbal VaporRub ($5.25) to rub on the chest and lymph nodes. We also have teas; yes, tea both black and green can stimulate the immune system and fight infections. The most important thing you can do to prevent the flu is to wash your hands often. Colorado Aromatics gives you a good choice of soaps to pick from! Shop at