Prevention, prevention, prevention. I cannot emphasize the importance of prevention with any disease–including this recent outbreak of swine flu. From an herbalist perspective there are many things one can do to prevent either the infection of this disease or to curb its pathological effects. As with any flu viruses there are several, very important, ways to protect yourself:
- Wash your hands–a lot. I don’t recommend using antibacterial soaps usually, as it lends itself to the creation of super-bugs; however some good strong fennel soap would be perfect. If you only have antibacterial soap: use it–a lot.
- Keep your hands away from your eyes: if you are in a public place with others who could perhaps be sick, as a general rule, keep your fingers out of your eyes.
- Keep your hands away from your mucus membranes, until they are very clean (nose, mouth and any other opening that is subject to external pernicious influences)!
- Drink plenty of water. Keeping your body fluids at the necessary level allows your body to function optimally.
- Decrease sugar intake. Too much can knock down your immune system.
- Eat plenty of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables. Vitamins and minerals are essential to immunity!
- Elderberry syrup. I make my own and you can too (of course it can be purchased at any health food store). The syrup that I make is pretty strong and I recommend 1-1 1/2 tsp for small children 3-4X a day if they are sick or 1/2-1 tsp 2-3x a day prophylactic. Adults can do twice as much; although starting at that amount would be fine. (Elderberry syrup in some studies has been found to be as beneficial as Tamiflu in viral cases-but is much better for your body).
- Adaptogens. Astragalus membranaceos, Eleutherococcus senticosus , Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), Shiitake (Lentinula edodes), to name a few. Taking these 2-3 times a day beefs up your immune system to battle anything that comes it’s way (of course you should check with your herbalist first to make sure there are no contraindications for you).
- Garlic, onions and Garlic oh my! Studies do show that these delicious foods are highly anti-viral and great for your immune system (even anti-cancerous).
- Get some sunshine! Vitamin D is so important in the healthy function of your body and its metabolism and immune system. Sunshine is almost always a good thing.
If you are planning on visiting any of the states that have been affected by this epidemic make the necessary precautious efforts and purchase some masks for public transit and continue with the above recommendations (if you are really worried, wear gloves as well). If you are exposed you will have a better chance at getting through it with the amazing talents of the human immune system.
These precautions are a good idea with any virus that you are exposed to. Modern medicine truly has no “cure” for viral infections and antibiotics won’t help you unless the disease is bacterial. Plants are the answer as is a healthy diet and smart hygiene.