Influenza

Dr Richard Robinson advises on the homeopathic treatment & prevention of this common winter illness

One of my first personal experiences of the effectiveness of  homeopathy was shortly after I started the long course in homeopathy at  the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital some years ago. I had been out  for the day one Saturday, and on arriving home began to feel very  unwell. I was shivery, hot and cold, with teeth chattering and feeling  very weak. I dragged myself to bed with an inward groan, knowing that I  would be unfit for anything for the next few days. I still had a clear  enough head though, to think that since I was studying homeopathy, now  would be a good time to see if these homeopathic remedies actually  worked. Since my symptoms appeared to fit the Gelsemium picture I took a  pilule of Gelsemium 30c followed by another one half an hour later, and  then dozed off. I woke up after an hour and got out of bed – all the  symptoms had completely disappeared! I was astounded! I had never had  such an experience before – any previous time that I had had ‘flu  symptoms like this, they would have been sure to last several days, with  or without conventional treatment. I was very impressed!

Influenza is caused by infection with the influenza virus.  Uncomplicated influenza is characterised by the abrupt onset of fever,  chills, non-productive cough, muscle pains, headache, nasal congestion,  sore throat and fatigue. It is usually diagnosed clinically. Not all  people affected with the virus become symptomatic – the percentage of  infections resulting in clinical illness can vary from 40 to 85 per  cent, depending on age and pre-existing immunity to virus.

In temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere, influenza activity  typically peaks between late December and early March. The usual  incidence of influenza virus varies yearly and depends partly on the  underlying level of the population’s immunity to the particular  circulating virus. One study in the USA found an infection rate with or  without symptoms of 10 to 20 per cent a year, with the highest infection  rates in people under 20 years old. Attack rates are higher in  institutions and in areas of overcrowding.

The influenza virus is transmitted from person to person through  respiratory droplets disseminated during sneezing, coughing and talking.  The incubation period of influenza is one to four days and infected  adults are usually contagious from the day before the onset of symptoms  until five days after the symptoms began. The signs and symptoms of  uncomplicated influenza usually resolve within a week, although a cough  and fatigue may persist.

Complications include otitis media, bacterial sinusitis, secondary  bacterial pneumonia, and, less commonly, viral pneumonia and respiratory  failure. Complications are also caused by escalation of underlying  disease. In the USA each year, over 110,000 admissions to hospital and  about 20,000 deaths are related to influenza. The risk of  hospitalisation is highest in people 65 years and older, in very young  children and in those with chronic medical conditions.

Homeopathy, however, has a lot to offer, both in the prevention and  treatment of influenza. The homeopathic remedy Oscillococcinum (also  known as Anas barb) has been used in France for many years and can be  bought at nearly any chemist in France. It is not licensed for sale over  the counter in the UK but can be prescribed by a registered medical  practitioner for individual patients.

The suggested treatment regime is:

  • At the start of an attack of ’flu, take a dose as soon as possible. Repeat two or three times at six hourly intervals.
  • For a well established attack of ’flu, take one morning and evening for up to three days.

Tailor-made preparations

“Tailor-made” ’flu preparations are produced by many homeopathic  pharmacies. For example, one preparation contains the homeopathic  dilution of the current influenza virus amongst other things, such as a  combination of previous ’flu virus potencies. The recommended dosage is  30c three times per day once a fortnight during the ’flu season. Another  example provides a combination of Influenzinum 30c and Bacillinum 30c.  The recommended dosage is one dose a week, increased to once a day if in  contact with influenza.

Although there are quite a few specific remedies for influenza, the following are the ones I have found most helpful.

Gelsemium

This remedy covers a large percentage of the ordinary, typical ’flu  cases familiar to us all. Where often someone feels a bit out of sorts  the day before, possibly a little headachy, a little feverish, a bit of  vague pain: he goes to bed, does not sleep very well and next morning he  feels rotten.

Gelsemium ’flu is rather slow in onset, usually coming on over six to  eight hours and produces primarily a feeling of intense weariness. The  patient is very dull and tired, looks bleary-eyed and sleepy, with  heavy, drooping eyelids being a keynote of Gelsemium.

They feel hot and sticky, and yet have the sensation of little  shivers of cold up and down their backs, as if someone had spilt a  little cold water down their back. The Gelsemium patient tends to feel  shaky, with a tremor in their hands noticeable when they try and lift  something and they tend to get very shivery when exposed to cold  draughts.

They tend to have an unpleasant headache that is usually throbbing,  affecting the back of the head radiating into the neck and there is a  generalised aching soreness in the muscles. Despite their sensitiveness  and dry mouth, patients with Gelsemium ’flu are not usually very  thirsty. This lack of thirst is another keynote of Gelsemium.

For potency and dosage I would suggest one 30c up to hourly in the  acute stages, reducing the frequency as the symptoms improve, and  stopping the remedy when the symptoms clear. This regime would be  suitable for the following remedies as well.

Baptisia

I remember taking a telephone call from a patient whom I had been  treating for another complaint to say that she had come down with the  ’flu, and was there any homeopathic remedy that might help? On asking  her to describe her symptoms she said that she felt very tired with her  face flushing hot and the rest of her cold. She had throbbing pains in  her head which shifted about, her face was flushed and she felt “all  puffed up” with a pressure in her head, she found it very hard to  concentrate, she said that she felt weird when she stood up, and felt  drugged and dopey. I suggested that she try Baptisia. She told me at her  next appointment that her symptoms had cleared after a few hours, and  that she had been delighted at the response.

This is the classic picture of the Baptisia influenza – generally a  more toxic situation than in Gelsemium the symptoms are more intense  with mental confusion and feeling befuddled – their faces often appear  puffy and swollen, their eyes are heavy, but with a congested, besotted  look rather than the drooping eyelids of Gelsemium. Occasionally, one  may even elicit the rather bizarre Baptisia keynote of “Feels he (or  she) is scattered all over the bed and tries to bring all the pieces  together again”.

Byronia

Another telephone call was from a patient whose son had just had to  take to his bed with ’flu, again enquiring if a remedy might help. Here  the picture was different again – he had shut himself away in his  bedroom and was lying still just facing the wall, was irritable and  unresponsive, and just wanted to be left alone (most unlike the usual  junior invalid!). His thirst for large amounts of cold water confirmed  the diagnosis of Bryonia and again a few doses of the 30c potency  brought about a hasty recovery.

Eupatorium perfoliatum

This is another remedy, which can be extremely useful in influenza. Here  the most noticeable factor is the severity of the pains which are a  severe ache involving all the bones of the skeleton – arms, legs,  shoulders, back, hips and particularly the shin bones.

The pains develop very rapidly and the patient often says it feels as  if the joints were being dislocated, or as if the bones were broken –  it is that type of deep-seated severe pain. Associated with the pain,  there is intense restlessness; the patients are always moving to try to  ease the aching pain in one or the other of their bones.

Eupatorium patients are always chilly, feeling cold and shivery but paradox­ically tend to be very thirsty for ice-cold drinks.

Arsenicum album

Probably the best remedy for “gastric ’flu” influenza with  gastroenteritis, vomiting and diarrhoea is Arsenicum album. Here, the  patient tends to feel worse between midnight and one o’clock in the  morning and tends to have a fever, followed by chills and rigors. The  face is hot and patients crave open air, yet the body feels chilled.  They feel worse for eating and drinking, but are thirsty for small sips  of water. There is a marked restlessness punctuated by collapse or  prostration, and the patient tends to have the classical Arsenicum  anxiety often out of all proportion to the severity of the symptoms. The  sufferer wants company at all times.

Homeopathy, therefore, can be extremely effective in both the  prevention and treatment of influenza and as always, is a cheap and safe  alternative to the allopathic approach. Perhaps homeopathy should be  the approach promoted in the National Health Service for the treatment  of ’flu rather than the new and very expensive anti-viral drugs that are  coming into vogue!

Richard Robinson MB BCh BaO DRCOG MFHom has been practising  homeopathy for 11 years. He works at the Nature Cure Clinic in Central  London and in private practice at Amersham, Bucks and Boots in Milton  Keynes.