Excerpt from FLU: Alternative Treatments and Prevention
by Randall Neustaedter OMD, North Atlantic Books, 2005
Finding the right homeopathic medicine for the flu is usually straightforward because the symptoms tend to be dramatic and easily characterized.
Most flu seasons and epidemics fit a common homeopathic picture, so that the majority of people with the flu will benefit from the epidemic medicine. Homeopaths in practice will easily discover this medicine in their community after seeing a few cases of the flu. For example, the epidemic medicine for the 1918 Spanish flu was Gelsemium (with Bryonia and Eupatorium as secondary prescriptions), which has also been the appropriate medicine for many other flu seasons. I have created a database for epidemic medicines in various parts of the United States reported by experienced homeopathic practitioners. These epidemic reports can be found at www.cure-guide.com in the flu section. Find your area of the country and you will see the most frequently prescribed homeopathic medicine for the flu where you live.
Homeopaths are singularly confident about treating viral illness, including flu. There is a long history of successful management of serious acute infections with homeopathy, particularly the flu. Homeopathic medicine proved extremely effective in the management of the 1918 flu epidemic, and it will prove itself in any future flu pandemic, just as it does every winter in the treatment of that year’s flu cases. The Spanish flu pandemic was a plague that exceeded the ravages of the Bubonic Plague of 1347 that killed a third of the European population. Worldwide the Spanish flu killed an estimated 40 million people. In some primitive cultures the death rate was 100 percent. Fortunately, many patients in the United States had access to homeopathic medical care. A report to the American Institute of Homeopathy in 1921 documented the dramatic success of homeopathy in the worst flu pandemic in history. The death rate of 24,000 flu cases under conventional medical care in that study was 28.2 percent, while the death rate of 26,000 cases treated with homeopathy was a nearly miraculous 1.05 percent. Similarly, many homeopathic physicians each reported treating thousands of patients with very few deaths.
For at least the past 150 years homeopathic practitioners have used the medicine Influenzinum as a flu preventive. Influenzinum is a homeopathic medicine made from flu viruses. A proprietary preparation is produced by Dolisos pharmacy each year using the flu virus strains recommended by the World Health Organization for the year’s vaccine production (Dolivaxil – containing Influenzinum 9C). The typical dosage is once per week for four weeks beginning in October or later, followed by another dose three weeks later.
Between the years 1918 and 1957 the preparation of Influenzinum was derived from samples of blood or nasal secretions taken from patients who contracted the flu during the deadly 1918 flu pandemic. Subsequent to 1957 Influenzinum preparations come from a homeopathic preparation of the yearly flu viruses chosen for the flu vaccine.
In 1998 the French Society of Homeopathy conducted a survey of 23 homeopathic doctors concerning their use of Influenzinum as a flu preventive (Coulamy, 1998). The survey included use of Influenzinum over a 10 year period (1987-1998) in 453 patients. The protocol for the frequency of doses varied considerably among these doctors. Weekly doses were used by 26 percent of participants and monthly dosage by 23 percent. Another 16 percent used a weekly then monthly dosage plan, and 35 percent applied some other dosage protocol. 80 percent of respondents began treatment in the fall (September through November) and ended between February and April. In this French survey 70 percent of participants used a 9C strength of Influenzinum. (In the US one would assume a higher proportion of practitioners use a higher strength because of the different prescribing preferences between the two countries.)
Results of the survey were remarkable. In approximately 90 percent of the cases no instances of the flu occurred when Influenzinum was used preventively no matter what the dosage protocol. Among the physicians the effectiveness was deemed good to very good in 90 percent of the cases. In 5 percent there was no protective effect. Of the patients, 98 percent expressed a desire to take the same preventive treatment the following year. Certainly this confidence in homeopathic prevention among physicians with many years of experience and their patients speaks to the effectiveness of Influenzinum as a flu preventive. It should be noted that a clinical study that approaches statistical significance evaluating the preventive effects of any homeopathic preparation would probably be prohibitively expensive.
One specific homeopathic medicine used to treat the flu has been subjected to clinical trials. The medicine is a homeopathic preparation of the liver and heart of a Barbary duck (trade name Oscillococcinum). This medicine was first formulated in 1925. Its name arose from a spurious notion that the blood of flu victims in the 1918 pandemic contained bacteria composed of balls (cocci) that vibrated, or oscillated. Joseph Roy, a French physician at the time identified this supposed pathogen and found it in many animal species. He chose as the source of his homeopathic preparation a duck, possibly an extremely fortuitous accident because of the association between human flu epidemics and bird viruses.
Oscillococcinum was first studied in France during the 1987 flu epidemic caused by an H1N1 virus. This multi-center study examined the effect of Oscillococcinum (200C) on the early symptoms of flu. Results were published in the peer-reviewed British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. A group of 149 non-homeopathic physicians enlisted 487 patients in the study, each of whom had developed flu-like symptoms during the previous 24 hours. Symptoms met strict criteria for the level of fever and the presence of associated flu symptoms. This took place in the midst of a documented flu epidemic. A treatment group and control group were established and the medicine prescribed in 5 doses, once at the physician’s office and then twice a day for two days following. More patients in the treatment group recovered completely in the first 48 hours than the control group (17 percent of patients with active treatment compared to 10 percent of controls). This was deemed a statistically significant difference. More patients in the treatment group also judged the treatment as favorable compared to the placebo, 61 percent vs 49 percent (Ferley, 1989).
In 1990 German physicians replicated the French study of Oscillococcinum. They used the same criteria as the previous study and enrolled 372 patients. After 48 hours of treatment with Oscillococcinum the treatment group had significantly milder symptoms than the control group, and the number of patients with no symptoms from day two onward was significantly greater in the treatment group (17.4 percent) compared to the control group (6.6 percent) (Papp, 1998).
Both of these studies show a significant curative effect of a homeopathic medicine in the treatment of flu in carefully conducted, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials. The two studies were done in different countries, each with many participating physicians, and during two different flu epidemics, presumably caused by different viruses. Conventional antiviral drugs reduce the duration of flu by about one day if taken within the first 48 hours of illness (Cooper, 2003). Comparing the results of these studies with the meager effect of conventional treatment shows that homeopathy carries the potential to make a dramatic difference in any flu epidemic without the risk of drug side effects.
Homeopathic Flu Medicines
The two most frequently indicated homeopathic flu medicines over the past 100 years have been Gelsemium and Bryonia. There are significant differences in the symptom pictures of these two medicines that make it easy to decide which is the better fit. They are not the only medicines used to treat the flu, but between them they will probably fit the majority of cases.
Bryonia and Gelsemium type flus both come on slowly over a 6-12 hour period. You begin to feel gradually worse over that time. By the second day you have aching muscles, feel pretty bad, and usually have a headache. Bryonia has more pain in the front of the head, which is definitely made worse by moving the head, or moving the eyes, and feels better from pressing the hand on the head. Gelsemium has pain in the back of the head with stiffness and aching in the neck and across the shoulders. Gelsemium does not want to move much either, and you may feel worse from moving around, but you avoid movement primarily because you are so tired. The characteristic state of Gelsemium is lethargy and fatigue. By contrast, Bryonia is tired but also restless. Bryonia discomfort is worse from motion, but at the same time you feel the urge to move about restlessly in the bed. No position seems comfortable. Bryonia is thirsty, Gelsemium is not. In fact Bryonia is generally warmer and drier. Bryonia wants air and cool temperatures to calm the heat. Gelsemium is chilly and sensitive to cold; cold shivers go down the spine. At the same time Gelsemium is clammy with the fever, and feelings of heat and cold may alternate. Bryonia has more coughing and chest symptoms, a painful cough that aggravates the sore throat. The Bryonia cough will also cause chest pains, and the inevitable reaction to this situation is to press the palm to the chest to minimize the movement caused by coughing.
Gelsemium does not have the energy to be emotional. Bryonia is irritable, worried, and fretful. Bryonia wants to be left alone, Gelsemium is too exhausted to respond.
Contrasting Gelsemium and Bryonia
Chilly with chills down spine Warm with desire for cool air
Dull, sleepy, heavy Dull, but irritable, worried
Worse from movement All symptoms worse from movement, but restless
Headache at back of head, stiff neck Headache in forehead, better from pressure, worse motion
The Rhus toxicodendron flu immediately distinguishes itself by its extreme restlessness. With all of the aching pains Rhus tox is better from moving. Constant motion, changing positions, and stretching provide the only relief. If you lie still with a Rhus tox flu you begin to ache, which forces you to move. Nighttime is the worst for Rhus tox because of the difficulty remaining in one position. You will toss and turn looking for relief. Mentally Rhus tox is anxious with a restless mind, and emotionally a sudden depression with crying is common. Like Gelsemium, Rhus tox is chilly and sweaty. Rhus tox is also sensitive to cold and better from warmth. The headache of both Rhus tox and Gelsemium has its focus in the back of the neck and head with aching across the shoulders. Rhus tox has a very dry mouth, but despite the dryness is not very thirsty.
Contrasting Gelsemium and Rhus toxicodendron
Dull, sleepy, heavy Extremely restless, cannot get comfortable, anxious
Worse from movement Better from movement
Chilly with chills down spine Chilly and better from heat
Baptisia is a bad flu that comes on quickly with a high fever. Suddenly with a Baptisia flu you are very sick and going downhill fast. Mentally Baptisia is confused, stupidly dull, and even delirious, sleepy all the time and unable to even answer questions. The main characteristic is an offensive odor from the sweat, the mouth, and the stool, and Baptisia flus are accompanied by both diarrhea and vomiting. The tongue is coated yellow or brown, the throat intensely red, ulcers appear in the mouth, and the gums ooze blood.