If you are in the hunt for a flu cure, the plant kingdom is a good place to start. Herbs often provide antiviral substances that are safer and more effective than prescription or over-the-counter drugs.
Flu Cure is a Legal Issue
I say this because the U.S. Foolish Drug Administration (FDA) has a monopoly on defining diseases and the drugs for them. (That is why we have so many more diseases now than all of prior human history.) The FDA also does not allow the use of the word ‘cure’ for anything. Example: Saying that vitamin C is a cure for scurvy is illegal according to federal regulations, even though the truth of this statement has been known since at least 1936.
In light of this scenario, I am going to be careful and never claim the existence of a cure for anything. However, I will point to activities of certain natural products on viruses, in this case flu viruses.
Important Biological Principles to Consider
As you already know, use of a single drug for any kind of microbial infection leads to the development of resistant forms of the offending microbe. What you may not know is that drug cocktails – mixtures of multiple drugs – do not have the same effect. As scary as it might seem, drug cocktails do better. This is not a common strategy for infectious diseases because the side effects from drug mixtures are too deadly.
Fortunately, this principle holds true for natural products, which is why whole herbs and extracts do not lead to the development of resistant microbes. Moreover, side effects of natural treatments are generally minimal or nonexistent.
A second principle that is supported by excellent research is the synergy among mixed natural products. Mixtures of flavonoids in particular have a boosted effect against flu viruses. This means that the antiviral activity of several flavonoids together is more powerful than any single compound.
The Abundance of Antiviral Herbs
Even a cursory check for the topic, “antiviral,” on PubMed yields nearly 500,000 articles. Searches on “antiviral plants” produces just under 15,000. Many of these are reports of antiviral activities of plant chemicals against human viruses. Indeed, several hundred of them involve antiviral flavonoids from a wide variety of plants. Not too long ago, I did a comprehensive search for the best antiviral plants and came with a list of 6 outstanding candidates. A new research study at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine (Tempe, AZ) is underway to further explore the antiviral potential of several more.
The Top Antiviral Herb
Out of all of the research that I have done myself, and that I have found in the scientific literature, the top antiviral herb in my view is still the creosote bush, Larrea tridentata. This species produces an abundance of compounds that show activity against HIV, herpes (including shingles and cold sores), influenza, and other viruses.
Antiviral activities of extracts and compounds from Larrea have already led to a handful of patents, on some of which I am a co-holder (for example, U.S. Patent No. 5,837,252).
Yes, I am biased in favor of this plant as one of Mother Nature’s top herbal medicine chests. However, I am following in the footsteps of Native Americans who discovered dozens and dozens of uses for it in their herbal pharmacopeia. One of these uses was for treating stomach flu. If you live in any desert in the southwestern U.S., from Texas to California, you can collect this plant on your own.
Other Excellent Antiviral Herbs
As I mentioned above, this is a long list. Almost every plant that has ever been evaluated for antiviral activity shows positive results. Some are even active against flu. The key, however, is to know which ones show the most potent anti-influenza action. To keep this post from being too long, I’ll just say that, besides Larrea, the best ones that I have found, based on published research, include the following: Baikal skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis), black elderberry (Sambucus nigra), garlic (Allium sativum), green tea (Thea sinensis), and American cranberry (Oxycoccus macrocarpus). If you find yourself in the predicament of looking for a good anti-influenza herb mix, this list would be a great start. And current research will certainly be expanding on these.
All the best in natural health,
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