An old Chinese folk adage “Trying to cure disease after it has begun is like trying to forge weapons while the battle is underway” carries the same meaning as Benjamin Franklin’s aphorism, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” (Franklin’s saying referred to the prevention of fires.) Both are particularly apt when applied to influenza, a kind of metabolic pathogenic fire, which is usually accompanied with fever, sore throat, headache, malaise, and body aches. Often, once the pathogen has taken hold, it simply has to run its course, hopefully without leading to complications such as pneumonia and bronchitis. Many herbs like garlic are effective for preventing these from occurring.
With this year’s flu season being particular severe, noticeably in California, the state where I reside, following are the products and protocol I recommend as prevention. Find Planetary brand herbal products here.
Reishi mushroom is one of the most highly prized botanicals in Chinese herbalism. Traditionally it was used as a general tonifier for preserving health and promoting longevity, as well as for promoting mental well-being. Modern pharmacological research has identified more than 100 oxygenated lanostane triterpenes in the reishi mushroom fruiting body and the mycelium. Many of these compounds are known for their ability to support immune defenses.
Another powerful immune booster from the TCM materia medica, astragalus is commonly combined with reishi. Read Lesley’s great blog post on this popular herb.
Developed during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), Yin Chiao has been a staple formula of traditional herbalists and acupuncturists, and a household name in China, for hundreds of years. It is used for acute viral or bacterial conditions including colds and flu, and as such is one of the most valued of all classic Chinese herbal formulas.
In fact, a well-known popular supplement originally manufactured for stewardesses and other airline travelers to provide some protection from the many viruses and bacteria circulating while traveling within a closed environment is based on the original Yin Chiao recipe.
Planetary’s Yin Chiao Echinacea Complex contains the Yin Chiao classic formula along with echinacea, which is one of the most powerful immune stimulants in the botanical kingdom. In addition, other herbs such as horehound, an antibacterial herb for the throat and lungs, cinnamon which treats coldness and chills, elecampane, a tonic herb for the lungs, are included. Most importantly isatis root and leaf extract complete the complex. Isatis is regarded in traditional Chinese medicine as the most powerful anti-viral herb. It is widely used as such in TCM, but has a long history of use in European herbalism extending back through Greco-Roman times. It is known in English country gardens as “woad,” which is old English for “weed.”
To prevent flu, three tablets two or three times daily is indeed “forging weapons before the battle.” If you’re already showing first signs of flu, I recommend taking 2 or 3 tablets hourly.
Calamus-ginger nasya (nose) drops
There is one more weapon I recommend. This is one you may need to make yourself. It is calamus-ginger nasya drops. Nasya basically means herb-infused sesame oil. Calamus and ginger are both powerful anti-mucus herbs. I have found that the lingering effects of cough that follows a flu outbreak, which in many cases can lead to pneumonia, is often worse and certainly longer lasting than the actual flu itself.
Viruses and bacteria seem to first take hold in the sinuses. One may first do a neti salt water nasal rinse followed by the calamus-ginger nasya nose drops. Of the two, however, nasya is the most effective.
Calamus and ginger nose drops have been used not only to prevent pathogens from lodging in the nasal passages, but is one of the most effective means to clear mucus. Again, don’t wait until you are sick to use these, but make a habit to do it once or twice a day as one might brush their teeth.
To make your own, following is a simple recipe:
- One pint of sesame oil
- 2 ounces of calamus root
- Two ounces of chopped fresh ginger or one ounce of dried ginger
First simmer the herbs in a pint of water for twenty minutes. Be sure to measure the amount of water and oil carefully.
Strain the tea and combine with the sesame oil in a wide pan. Continue simmering slowly until all of the water is evaporated and only the oil remains. One way to be sure that all the water has been removed is when only a pint of the oil remains.
Bottle in dropper bottles for use.
Each morning gently sniff three to five drops of the calamus-ginger nasya into each nostril. Do this more frequently as needed.