Flu - Traditional Medicine
While conclusive controlled studies are thin on the ground, there have been some that suggest acupuncture can help relieve flu symptoms. Trials in Russia in 1990 on laser reflex therapy; Xiao in 2007 on electro acupuncture; Kawakita in 2004 and 2008 on acupuncture and Takeuchi in 1999 on acupressure all reported positive results.
Laser reflex therapy was able to decrease the severity of infection by enhancing the activity of lymphocytes and modulating the ratio of antihemagglutinins and nonspecific anti-viral inhibitors in blood serum. Acupuncture, acupressure and electro-acupuncture appeared to work by enhancing natural killer cell activities; reducing pain by stimulating nerves and muscles which released endorphins; reducing inflammation by the release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors and increasing micro-circulation so helping the dispersal of swelling.
Further studies are necessary before firm conclusions can be drawn.
Since the 1918 flu epidemic, there have been many impressive claims concerning the effectiveness of some homeopathic remedies, specifically Gelsemium and Bryonia, the use of which were said to dramatically reduce death rates.
Recent studies have centred on two main treatments, L52 and Oscillococcinum.
L52 is a liquid homeopathic formula made of Eupatorium perf., Aconite, Bryonia, Amica, Gelsemium, China, Belladona, Drosera, Polygala and Eucalyptus. In a large double-blind, placebo controlled study it was found to be a promising treatment for flu symptoms although it had no preventative abilities.
Oscillococcinum is a patented homeopathic medicine that has had a lot of coverage in Europe and the USA as 'the' remedy for treatment of influenza. A 1989 French study during an influenza epidemic claimed an earlier recovery rate for patients using the treatment, as did a later German study. However, a 2012 review sited poor methodology in the trials to date and argued that there was insufficient robust evidence to show it was clinically useful for either prevention or treatment of influenza.
The wonders of bee products have been well known for millennia with propolis recorded for use medicinally as long ago as 350BC.
Propolis is a resin-like material which bees use to line the sides of their hives. It has complex anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. A 2011 trial on Brazilian green propolis extract found strong evidence of an anti-influenza effect and recommended further trials for its application in new anti-influenza drugs. A separate 2008 trial found propolis possessed anti-influenza virus activity and could ameliorate influenza symptoms and so could be a useful anti-influenza dietary supplement.
Manuka, or medicinal grade, honey is also packed with anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. It has been recommended as a flu treatment in quantities of 1tsp, 3 to 4 times a day, although not in children under the age of 1 year. In a study on children with cold and flu induced coughs, honey was found to be more effective than dextromethorphan, the active ingredient in children’s cough medications, to sooth overnight coughs.
Royal Jelly also has its proponents as a preventative flu treatment. During a flu epidemic in Yugoslavia, it was recorded that those who consumed royal jelly were less likely to succumb to the virus. However, Patient QI found no independent clinical trials to back this up.