Colds and Influenza

Time is the only sure cure for colds and flus but there are things you can do to prevent getting them in the first place and hasten your recovery if you do, especially with the flu.

Influenza is like the cold in that they are both respiratory infections caused by viruses. If a cold is misdiagnosed as flu, there’s no problem. At worst, a cold can occasionally lead to secondary bacterial infections of the middle ear or sinuses, which can be treated. But if the flu is misdiagnosed as a bad cold, potentially life-threatening flu complications like pneumonia may be overlooked.

Usually colds begin slowly, 2-3 days after infection with the virus. The first symptoms are perhaps a scratchy, sore throat, followed by sneezing and a runny nose. Temperature is usually normal or only slightly elevated. A mild cough can develop later. Symptoms tend to be worse in infants and young children, who sometimes run temperatures of up to 102&degF (39&degC). Cold symptoms usually last from two days to a week.

Indications of the flu include sudden onset with a headache, dry cough, and chills. The symptoms quickly become more severe than those of a cold. The flu sufferer often experiences fatigue with muscle aches in the back and legs. Fever of up to 104&degF (40&degC) is common. The fever typically begins to subside on the second or third day, and then respiratory symptoms like nasal congestion and sore throat appear. Fatigue and weakness may continue for days or even weeks.

Cold and flu-like symptoms can sometimes mimic more serious illnesses like strep throat, measles, and chickenpox. Allergies, too, can resemble colds with their runny noses, sneezing and malaise. With the typical symptoms, it is not necessary to contact your doctor immediately. However, if symptoms persist, become severe or localized in the throat, stomach or lungs, or if other symptoms such as vomiting and behavioral changes occur, professional help should be sought.

Because the symptoms of the common cold are caused by more than 200 different viruses–most by “rhinoviruses” (from the Greek rhin, meaning “nose”)–the development of a vaccine isn’t feasible. To minimize the spread of colds, people should try to keep their defenses up and their exposure down.

The current medical treatment for colds includes antihistamines, cough suppressants, decongestants and other treatments which tend to suppress cold symptoms, making people more comfortable. Sometimes antibiotics are used, even though we know that they do not work on viruses. However, they may be useful for secondary infections that develop as a result of the viral infection. Very little treatment is usually directed toward building the immune system to help prevent recurrence.

The symptoms experienced during the flu are the body’s natural attempt to eliminate the infection. For example, the body raises its temperature (i.e., produces a fever) high enough to kill the infecting organism and increases mucus production to soothe irritated tissues that have become inflamed due to the immune system’s response. The goal of naturopathic treatment is to work with the body’s defense mechanisms by enhancing the immune system rather than suppress the flu symptoms with analgesics and cough medications. So, when treating with natural therapeutics, flu symptoms may temporarily worsen, but the duration of the illness will probably be shorter and secondary infections may be reduced or prevented.

Natural medicine suggests you only keep an eye on a fever, not letting it get dangerously high. Some doctors say not to take any action unless it gets over 103-104&degF (39.4-40&degC). While long-term fevers can be dangerous, a fever that runs its natural course is usually quite safe if monitored closely.

If you are getting colds and the flu too frequently you should have your healthcare provider assess you for what may be causing this predisposition. There may be a drain on your immune system from a hidden infection, poor diet, hidden allergies or lifestyle problems. Exposure to cold and wet, overwork, loss of sleep, and other exhausting conditions lower bodily resistance and prepare the way for the virus to begin its work. The virus, in turn, prepares the way for the disease germs already present in the nasal cavity and other respiratory passages to multiply.

Other predisposing factors are a lack of resistance from living in overheated and poorly ventilated rooms, without sufficient outdoor exercise; lowered resistance due to errors in diet, including overeating, especially of such concentrated foods as sugar, fats, meats, or nuts; and diseased tonsils and adenoids. People who live truly hygienic lives seldom have colds. Many people with a history of being sick frequently no longer have this tendency after making appropriate changes.

The regular use of a multivitamin-mineral supplement, with or without additional vitamin E did not reduce the incidence of upper respiratory illness in a group of older Dutch patients.


Signs, symptoms & indicators of Colds and Influenza

Symptoms - Metabolic  

Frequent colds/flus


Having a slight/having a moderate/having a high fever

Conditions that suggest Colds and Influenza


Night Sweats

Having a fever due to a self-limiting condition, such as a cold or flu, can cause perspiration during the night, and is not a cause for alarm.

Risk factors for Colds and Influenza


Aerobic Exercise Need

People who report being the most active have 25% fewer colds over the course of a year compared to those who are the least active. [Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 2002;34: pp.1242-1248]

The Immune System  

Colds and Influenza suggests the following may be present

Cell Salts  



Colds and Influenza can lead to


Night Sweats

Having a fever due to a self-limiting condition, such as a cold or flu, can cause perspiration during the night, and is not a cause for alarm.

Recommendations for Colds and Influenza


Urine Therapy

The frequency of colds and flu may be reduced by the use of urine therapy.



Drawing upon hundreds of years of using garlic to treat illnesses, many contemporary herbalists prescribe it to help prevent colds and flu, stimulate circulation, lower high blood pressure, aid digestion, and heal superficial wounds. Modern research has substantiated many of these therapeutic uses.

Garlic is sometimes referred to as a truly natural antibiotic because it can destroy foreign bacteria and viruses while being one of the few herbs that can be taken in large quantities, usually without dangerous side effects. However, eating more than five cloves a day risks heartburn and flatulence and may also slow blood clotting, so people taking anticoagulants should consult with their health-care provider before consuming large quantities of garlic. In addition, there have been rare reports of allergic reactions to this popular herb.

Garlic’s antibiotic properties stem from the substance allicin, a potent antibacterial agent, that is released when garlic cloves are cut or bruised. Because garlic’s therapeutic effectiveness depends on the presence of allicin, dried garlic preparations, such as capsules or tablets, should have an enteric coating to protect the garlic from stomach acids, which can inactivate allicin. Scientific reports confirm the antibiotic effects of freshly pressed garlic juice, and steam-distilled garlic oil has been shown to be an effective fighter of mucous membrane infections. The effectiveness of other types of garlic extracts depends upon preparation methods, details of which often are unavailable to consumers.

Dose: 4 grams of fresh garlic (about one medium-sized clove) or 8mg of volatile oil daily is recommended; if you prefer capsules, make sure that they are enteric-coated.

Peter Josling published results of a double-blind, placebo controlled clinical trial of Allicidin in 2001. Seventy active treatment patients and 72 placebo patients took one capsule daily of Allicillin or placebo for 12 weeks. The results were impressive. The placebo group had 65 colds during the study compared to the Allicillin group which had only 24 colds. The average duration of symptoms was 5.01 days for the placebo group, 1.52 days for the Allicillin group. The placebo group required an average of 5.63 days to recover, the Allicillin group 4.63 days. The total for days of infection was 366 for the placebo group, 111 for the Allicillin group. During the trial, 16 placebo group members had more than one cold, while only two of the Allicillin group had more than one cold. The “accelerated relief, reduction in the severity of troublesome symptoms …and recovery to full fitness” as well as “reduced likelihood of becoming reinfected with other viral strains” clearly demonstrated the effectiveness of Allicillin against the common cold.


Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)

Teas of elderberry fruits or flowers have been used for centuries in folk medicine to treat the symptoms of colds and flu; in Europe, elderberry flowers are commonly used as a diuretic. Recent research from Israel indicates that elderberry fruit extract may deactivate flu viruses by preventing them from replicating (flu viruses must reproduce or they cannot infect the body). Although this finding is exciting, it has yet to be confirmed.

By increasing inflammatory cytokine production, black elderberry extract may be beneficial to immune system activation and in the inflammatory process in healthy individuals or in patients with various diseases. [Eur Cytokine Netw 2001 Apr-Jun; 12(2): pp.290-6]

Dosage: Take 40 drops of the liquid fruit extract daily or 2 to 4 grams of the dried flowers in an infusion once a day during the first signs of a cold. Elderberry is available in powders, capsules, and other forms. So far, no side effects or contraindications have been reported.



Astragalus Root (Astragalus membrinaceus)

Astragalus extract at 300mg per day can boost immune function and produce antiviral effects.


Coneflower (Echinacea purpura)

In a study of nearly 150 university students with the common cold, using Echinacea purpurea herb and root (50%) and E. angustifolia root (50%) had no effect on the severity and duration of self-reported symptoms. The dosage used was 1gm, six times on the first day of illness and three times daily thereafter for up to 10 days. [ Ann Intern Med 2002;137(12): pp.939-46]

However, a review concluded that echinacea has modest benefit for treating, but not preventing, upper respiratory tract infections. [Am Fam Physician 2003;67(1): pp.77-80, 83]

This indicates that the use of echinacea to treat URIs is of limited use.


Sugars Avoidance / Reduction

Sugar consumption is a known weakener of the immune system. Regular use of rapidly absorbed sugars slows down your immune systems ability to dispose of invading organisms.


Therapeutic Fasting

It is generally best not to eat for at least a day when sick with a cold or flu. Not eating will help your immune system to concentrate on the battle taking place. Fasting is more likely to make a difference with the flu than with a simple cold.


Liquid Diet

Marvin Sackner, M.D., a pulmonary specialist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, published a study in 1978 finding that drinking hot chicken soup aided in clearing nasal passages better than plain hot or cold water. Sackner felt even consuming chicken soup cold aided in clearing a “stuffy” nose. But, a hot, steaming cup of chicken soup was the most efficient remedy.

Dr. Irwin Ziment, M.D., pulmonary specialist and professor at the UCLA School of Medicine feels chicken soup contains ingredients similar to those in modern cold medicines. It has been demonstrated that chicken soup has a very mild anti-inflammatory action and this potentially could contribute to some of the so-called medicinal activities that people have attributed to chicken soup. Adding pepper to chicken soup also can help to clear a stuffy nose, doctors say.


Increased Water Consumption

During times of illness it is especially important to maintain fluid intake. Water is best, but If any juice is used during this time, fresh vegetable juice is better than sweet fruit juice.


Dairy Products Avoidance

Dairy products tend to be mucous forming, making the mucous thicker. This makes it more difficult for natural processes to remove it, increasing the susceptibility to infections.


Colon Cleansing

Cleansing the bowel with an enema or colonic using several quarts of warm soda water at 100-105&degF (37.8-40.5&degC), followed by a small cool soda enema at about 80&degF (26.7&degC) is a time honored way of hastening recovery. Do not give the warm enema without the cool enema following it.

Most of the mucous from the respiratory tract is swallowed and waste to be expelled from this mucous makes its way to the colon. During an illness like a cold, viral particles remain in quantity in the colon. The gentle washing away of the bulk of this material allows the immune system to focus on the respiratory tract rather than maintain a second larger front in the colon. This is one reason why almost all doctors in the preantibiotic era recommended enemas, or at the least laxatives with colds. The use of enemas gives immediate relief of symptoms and helps to concentrate the immune response where it is needed.


Personal Hygiene Changes

The best way to reduce the likelihood of infection is regular hand washing, along with not touching the nose, eyes or mouth. The flu is highly contagious disease, spreading mostly by direct person-to-person contact. With the flu, coughing – even more than sneezing – is the most effective method of transmission.



There has been controversy over whether oral zinc is useful in reducing the incidence and duration of colds. A zinc nasal gel spray did reduce the duration and severity of common cold symptoms in a study of 80 volunteers who presented within 48 hours of the start of illness. This study was placebo controlled. [ Q J Med 2003;96(1): pp.35-43]

Use of zinc gluconate glycine lozenges, once daily during the cold season for prevention and one lozenge QID for treatment, reduced the number and duration of colds in an open-label study of 178 children. 134 successfully completed the trial. [Am J Ther 2003;10(5): pp.324-9]

2011. Depending on the total dosage of zinc and the composition of lozenges, zinc lozenges may shorten the duration of common cold episodes by up to 40%.

Harri Hemila, from University of Helsinki (Finland), completed a meta-analysis of placebo-controlled trials that have examined the effect of zinc lozenges on natural common cold infections. Of the 13 trial comparisons identified, five used a total daily zinc dose of less than 75 mg and uniformly those five comparisons found no effect of zinc. Three trials used zinc acetate in daily doses of over 75 mg, with the average indicating a 42% reduction in the duration of colds. Five trials used zinc salts other than acetate in daily doses of over 75 mg, with the average indicating a 20% decrease in the duration of colds.

“This study shows strong evidence that the zinc lozenge effect on common cold duration is heterogeneous so that benefit is observed with high doses of zinc but not with low doses,” the study author urges that: “The effects of zinc lozenges should be further studied to determine the optimal lozenge compositions and treatment strategies.” [Harri Hemila. “Zinc Lozenges May Shorten the Duration of Colds: A Systematic Review.” Open Respiratory Medicine Journal, Volume 5 2011, pp 51-58, 23 June 2011.]


Lithium (low dose)

One research group reported that lithium inhibits the reproduction of several viruses, including herpes simplex viruses (HSV 1, HSV 2), adenovirus (the “common cold” virus), cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus (associated with mononucleosis and many cases of chronic fatigue), and the measles virus.

Oxygen / Oxidative Therapies  

Ozone / Oxidative Therapy

Dr. Charles Farr, MD popularized oxidative therapy with intravenous hydrogen peroxide claiming that it was helpful in fighting viral infections. Blood irradiation with ultraviolet light and ozone purification may also be helpful.

Some have claimed results in curing the flu and cold within hours by administering a few drops of 3% hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) into each infected ear. Here, prevention is better than cure, and the drops should be used at the first indication of illness. The H2O2 causes some bubbling and in some cases mild stinging or cold sensation occurs. Wait until the bubbling subsides (usually 5 to 10 minutes) then drain onto tissue and repeat with the other ear. Hydrogen Peroxide in 3% solution is available at any drug store. Although this method is safe for the infant or child to use, the loud bubbling and stinging may frighten them, and require comforting contact with a parent. Avoid contact with the eyes, flushing with water if contacted.

Physical Medicine  


Resting in bed and keeping warm are still recognized as an important part in recovering from the cold or flu.


Hot Applications

Another way of enhancing the immune system is by using different forms of heat. A common way of avoiding colds is to take a good hot soak periodically during cold weather followed by a quick cooling rinse. Another method is to take a sauna followed by a cold shower. This sauna-cold cycle is usually repeated at least twice and works best if done at the very first indication of a viral infection.



(Europe)—A recent report by cited a new study that found children with colds may recover faster with a saltwater or saline treatment.

European researchers found that a nasal spray made from Atlantic Ocean seawater “eased wintertime cold symptoms faster and slowed cough and cold symptoms from returning among children ages 6 to 10.”

The study, done by Dr Ivo Slapak and colleagues at the Teaching Hospital of Brno in the Czech Republic, was announced after a warning just last week, by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that standard cough and cold treatments could be risky in young children, and were mostly ineffective anyway.

The Czech research, which involved 390 children having “uncomplicated cold or flu symptoms,” lasted for a period of 12 weeks.

According to the report, the children all received the same medications, but some received the saline nasal wash in addition. Those who did were found to have less stuffy or runny noses, and “eight weeks after the study began, those in the saline group had significantly fewer severe sore throats, coughs, nasal obstructions and secretions than those given standard treatments.”


Steam / Spray Treatments

Interference with the constant passage of mucus raises the chances for penetration of the virus. Therefore drinking liquids and maintaining a humid environment with a vaporizer may lower susceptibility.


Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)

Some complementary doctors give patients with the flu or a bad colds 50gm of intravenous vitamin C every other day for 3 treatments. At this time, only clinical experience suggests that this is helpful.


Weak or unproven link
Strong or generally accepted link
Proven definite or direct link
May do some good
Likely to help
Highly recommended



Any of a vast group of minute structures composed of a protein coat and a core of DNA and/or RNA that reproduces in the cells of the infected host. Capable of infecting all animals and plants, causing devastating disease in immunocompromised individuals. Viruses are not affected by antibiotics, and are completely dependent upon the cells of the infected host for the ability to reproduce.

Vitamin E

An essential fat-soluble vitamin. As an antioxidant, helps protect cell membranes, lipoproteins, fats and vitamin A from destructive oxidation. It helps protect red blood cells and is important for the proper function of nerves and muscles. For Vitamin E only, 1mg translates to 1 IU.

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