By Aalif Surti
Timely treatment of influenza helps prevent more serious complications from setting in.
Influenza is so named because in ancient times it was attributed to divine influence. Commonly called flu, it is an acute viral infection of the respiratory tract and is highly contagious, producing symptoms very early in the disease. Although influenza is self-limiting, it often causes severe illness with major complications. Infection can be prevented and the disease limited by timely and appropriate preventive and curative measures.
Influenza is a very common disease, which attracts public interest by causing epidemics or outbreaks. Also ill-reputed for causing pandemics resulting in the death of a large population, the influenza pandemic in 1918–19 killed about 20 million people—more than both world wars combined.
Influenza epidemics usually occur during winter, though the exact time varies from year to year; children are the first to be affected.
The influenza virus has two special antigens (proteins which cause disease when introduced in the body). One of them helps to attach the virus to the cell walls while the other helps release of the virus from the infected cells.
When attacked, the body’s natural defence mechanism produces antibodies. The immunity created by these antibodies is what protects you from a re-infection by the virus; however, there are several types of influenza virus and the antibodies, being antigen specific, will not defend you from any of the other types.
There are three main types of Influenza virus: Type A, which also affects birds, horses, swine and other diverse animal groups; Type B which is relatively milder; and Type C, which affects human beings although it rarely causes disease.
Influenza mainly spreads through virus present in secretions of the respiratory tract during sneezing or coughing, but also spreads through virus in objects such as bedsheets, towels etc.
Symptoms include fever for about three days along with headache, backache, muscle pain, lack of appetite and increased sensitivity to light and cough. If not managed effectively in the early stages, various complications occur which may even require hospitalisation.
Various healing systems have different cures for influenza.
According to it, indulgence in ‘cool’ things, exposure to cold and people suffering from diseases such as cough results in influenza.
It classifies four types of the disease:
Vatika: Characterised by pain all over the body but more severe in the head Paitika: Symptoms include blocked nose, burning in the nose and dry sneezing.
Slaismika: diagnosed if there is excessive sneezing and watering of the eyes and heaviness in the head Sannipatika: This is the most serious where fever and cough are present in addition to other symptoms.
Ayurveda broadly groups the causes of influenza into five groups:
Diet (Aharjanya): Overeating, drinking, cold drinks and heavy foods.
Lifestyle (Viharajanya): Suppression of urine and stools, sleeping during the day, inadequate sleep, talking loudly, exposure to frost and excessive sexual indulgence.
Environment (Asatmyajanya): Indigestion, head winds, dust, smoke, cold, ‘heating’ of head due to sunrays and sunstroke.
Emotional (Manasjanya): Excessive weeping and anger can precipitate influenza.
Seasonal (Ritujanya): Abnormal climate and change of season.
Ayurveda recommends fasting, light diet and avoiding sleep during the daytime as general measures for management of influenza. Single medicines, simple and compound preparations and local applications are recommended. These include
• Three to six grams of turmeric powder to be taken with hot milk or water three times a day.
• Fourteen to 28 ml of decoction prepared from long pepper taken twice or thrice a day.
• Fourteen to 20 ml of ginger juice to be taken two to three times a day with a teaspoon of hot ghee.
• One-fourth spoon of a mixture prepared with equal parts of ginger, black pepper and long pepper taken with honey two to three times a day improves digestion, and helps cure the disease.
• Fourteen to 28 ml of a decoction of equal parts of raisin, black pepper, leaves of ‘Vasaka’, Cinnamon bark and roots of Liquorice taken with five to 10 gm of raw sugar thrice a day.
• Fourteen to 28 ml of ‘Dasamula’ with one gram of powdered long pepper three times a day.
• Fourteen to 28 ml of equal parts of the bark of Neem, heart-leaved moonseed, dried ginger, wood of Deodar and roots of Sweet Flag and Indian Gentian to be drunk three times a day.
• Fourteen to 28 ml of a decoction prepared from equal proportions of dried ginger, root of Indian Cyprus and whole plant of Indian Gentian taken thrice a day.
• One or two tablets of Tribhuvan Kirtirasa honey and seven to 14 ml of ginger juice to be taken twice a day.
• One to two tablets of Laksmivilasa rasa taken with honey three times a day.
• 250 to 500 mg of Shringabhasma to be taken with honey three times a day.
Godantibhasma alone or combined with Tribhuvan Kirtirasa and Laksmivilasa rasa to be taken with honey three times a day.
• Inhaling Eucalyptus vapour.
• Instilling two drops of mustard oil in the nose in case of chronic cold.
For relief from a stuffy nose, instill two to four drops of a preparation of 600 mg of powdered ginger in five to 16 ml of milk.
Homoeopathy stresses that although influenza is self-limiting, negligence may lead to complications such as pneumonia, sinusitis, ear infection and Rye’s Syndrome.
While many believe that Homoeopathy is not effective for acute infections because of its slow action, timely treatment can cure without side-effects.
Those with a family history of TB are at a higher risk of suffering from influenza. It is more severe in people with a history of tuberculosis, for whom Bacillinum and Tuberculinum are effective remedies.
Homoeopathy has two main actions:
• To cure the disease
• Prevent infection, especially during epidemics.
A wide range of medicines can be used for treatment of influenza and the doctor will decide the type of medicine, its dose and duration of treatment. Commonly used medicines include Gelsimium, Eupatorium Perf, Belladonna, Aconite, Arsenic, Album and Dulcamara. Anti-flu 200 is a safe over-the-counter medicine, but should be taken under medical supervision.
Influenzinum, prepared from secretions from the nose of the patient, is a very effective medicine for influenza. However, further research is required to assess the effect of this preparation.
Homoeopathy also recommends general measures such as adequate bed rest in a warm, comfortable environment, drinking large quantities of fluids and a healthy diet. In case of depression due to Influenza, fresh air and regular exercise are also recommended.
According to Nature Cure, all symptoms of influenza indicate that it is an acute disease for removing toxins from the body.
If adequate treatment is not given at the early stages, you can develop fever with chills and other complications. Severity of infection and symptoms depends upon the amount of toxins you have in the body and your body’s natural defence mechanism.
Timely and appropriate measures include:
• Rest: At least a week of bed-rest to get adequate physical and mental relaxation.
• Enema: A daily enema for three days after the appearance of the symptoms to help cleanse the large intestine. Subsequently an enema once in two or three days may be needed.
• Steam inhalation: Inhaling vapour of boiled water preferably with neem leaves, through the nose and mouth foments the lining of the nose and improves blood circulation, thus relieving congestion, clearing the respiratory passages and relieving headache. Inhalation should be done three times a day for 5-6 minutes till recovery.
• Packs: Various packs such as chest pack, throat pack, leg pack, and full wetsheet pack are used to cure influenza. To prepare the pack, dip a cloth in cold water, squeeze out excess water. Place it on the desired part of the body and cover with a dry cloth.
A chest pack for an hour daily relieves all types of cough. A throat pack for an hour twice a day relieves sore throat, hoarseness and throat pain. A leg pack helps relieve body aches and other symptoms. Full wet-sheet pack reduces fever. The sheet is changed as soon as it becomes warm and this is continued till fever subsides. A cold wet-cloth on the forehead also reduces fever and headache. Packs increase blood circulation and reduce inflammation of the respiratory tissues.
• Sweating packs and baths: A full wet sheet pack before the onset of fever results in profuse sweating, thus removing toxins. Hot foot immersion bath also results in sweating and relieving head and body ache.
• Applying cold towel packs to the abdomen morning and evening for 20 minutes is general treatment for most conditions.
Nature cure also recommends fasting for three to four days, though you may take juice of lemon, orange, sweet lime, pomegranate, grapes and grape fruit (and vegetable soup if recommended). Fasting, besides removing toxins, also diverts the energy required in digestion to kill the virus and develop resistance to disease.
This treatment should not be undertaken without direct medical supervision as improper practice may result in complications.
Influenza is known as Nazia Har Wabai, a condition with excessive excretion of fluids, hot or cold, from the front part of the brain through the nose. It is called Zukam when the fluid goes from the front part of the brain to the throat and other parts of the respiratory tract. Sometimes excessive secretions from the back of the brain pass through the spinal cord, causing more severe symptoms. Influenza occurs when hot ‘humors’ including black bile (Safra) and blood (Dam) are supplied to the brain through the blood where they liquefy and start flowing through the nostrils.
Factors leading to this condition include: i) Hot temperament; ii) hot weather; iii) exposure to heat; iv) excessive use of hot diet and v) excessive use of bile producing diets.
The basic aim of treatment is to prevent and control production of excessive Choleric humor in the body and restoring it to normal level using coctives and purgatives such as: Sweet Violet, Poppy seeds, Husk of Wheat, Flour of broad beans, Gun tragacanth, Almond, Liquorice, Holly Hock, Common mallow, Common Sabestens, Jujibe, Purging cassia and Cow’s tongue plant.
Used as decoction, tablet or powder, they have no side-effects, and are usually recommended twice a day for at least a week depending on severity of the disease.
(Compiled by Roozbeh Gazdar from Health Update).
Contact: Dr Savitri Ramaiah, Email: email@example.com
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