Herbal Supplements
Influenza Facts
There is hardly a person in the world, who does not know what kind of disease flu is. No doubt, even medical term “influenza” is absolutely familiar for the majority of us. Perhaps, our intimate knowledge of this condition is explained by the fact that almost all of us, with extremely rare exceptions, get flu from time to time, so we can share knowledge from our own experience.
Influenza, or flu, as it is commonly called, is a viral respiratory infection (attacking nose, throat, bronchial tubes and lungs), which can affect people irrespective of age, sex, or nationality. However, children, elderly, pregnant women, and people with the weakened immune system are at the greater risk of falling ill.
Being very contagious, flu is transmitted from person to person either through the air we breathe, or through the things we touch. Due to its contagiousness, flu sometimes causes epidemic and rarely even pandemia (when not only countries, but whole continents get infected).
Most often people fall ill during the colder months of the year – from November to April. An infected person starts spreading the virus a day or two before he notices the first symptoms; so he transmits the disease, being yet unaware of his own illness.
Flu is often confused with colds; however, influenza is the more serious disease, which causes more troublesome and multiple symptoms, and starts more rapidly than colds.
The most prominent symptoms, which distinguish flu from colds, are fever, muscle aches, headache, and fatigue. Other common symptoms include sore throat, runny nose, ear pain, coughing and sneezing. Dizziness and loss of appetite are also present in some patients. Children may experience diarrhoea and vomiting.  
In the majority of cases people recover from flu in a week or two; sometimes, they experience complications, for instance, pneumonia. Hospitalization is usually required to avoid health risks in such cases.

Influenza is a viral infection, meaning that viruses are its pathogens. There are three types of flu viruses: A, B, and C. Type C causes the mildest outbreaks of the disease. It is relatively stable, and was never reported to be the reason of epidemics.
Types A and B, on the other hand, are very changeable. The most dangerous flu virus is that of type A, since it is able of mutating either often and rapidly, or gradually. Type B can change only gradually, which makes it relatively safe for humans. Viruses’ subtypes are called strains.

Medical Approaches
In many cases doctors recommend to take pills like NSAIDs (acetaminophen, ibuprophen) to reduce muscle aches, fever, and headache. It is advisable to have much rest and drink lots of fluids to avoid dehydration. Thus, symptomatic therapy is often enough for the patient to cope with the disease.
On the other hand, there are also antiviral drugs, which work by suppressing viruses ability to multiply and grow. As any drugs, they can cause side effects, especially in kids, elderly, and people with the weakened immune system.

Alternative Approaches
There are plenty of patients, who would benefit from a therapy alternative to pharmaceutical drugs. A lot of people would rather try herbal remedies instead of chemicals in the pills to fight flu symptoms.
It should be noted that there really exists a number of plants capable of relieving influenza signs even better than medications. For example, cayenne pepper prevents nasal congestion by making mucus flow, and relieves headaches and muscle aches with the help of its main ingredient capsaicin.
Immune stimulating echinacea can significantly lessen flu symptoms and accelerate recovery. It is said that the short-term therapy with a concentrated plant extract (used for about a week) is enough to make influenza outbreak shorter. By the way, recent studies report that the use of the plant extract for long periods of time does not seem to be more effective than short-term therapies. In fact, taking Echinacea daily seems to have no effect on the immune system at all.
Elderberry can reduce fever, congestion, and treat sore throat. This action is explained by the plant’s anti-inflammatory properties and the existence of flavonoids in the herb. The most awesome thing about this plant is that it can even break the process of influenza intrusion into the cells of the human organism in order to infect them.
Ephedra is most often taken in combination with other herbs. It relieves bronchial constriction and dries out mucous membranes. However, ephedrine also increases blood pressure and heart rate; therefore, it should not be used by people with a history of cardiovascular disorders. 
Garlic has antifungal, slight antibacterial, and strong antiviral properties. It boosts the immune system, enhancing the production of killer cells, which fight off viruses and bacteria.
Licorice, similarly to garlic, works by promoting the production of macrophages – cells, which practically devour viruses. That is the reason why this herb is often used to overwhelm influenza. Its most valuable components in this battle are saponins.
Ginger pain-relieving properties allow heal sore throat; in addition, the unprocessed herb can kill flu viruses with the help of its compound shagaol.
Kudzu has a long history of use as a remedy against respiratory infections. It improves circulation, and this is said to lessen muscle pain – one of the most unpleasant flu symptoms.
Green tea is stated by herbalists to work much better for flu treatment than antiviral drugs. Its extract prevents viruses replication and multiplying.
Osha’s compound Z-ligusticide is effective against strains of both A and B influenza viruses. This remedy is also used if illnesses are persistent and do not respond to other treatments and herbal extracts.
It is obvious that there are a lot of herbs, which can fight influenza viruses. Hopefully, every person will be able to find the remedy, which would work most effectively for his or her symptoms and signs of this common disorder.
2009-11-23 08:58:13
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