Influenza (Deitsch: der Gripp (generic term); numerous other terms apply to different types of flu epidemics) season is upon us right now. As most of us are likely aware, this year's vaccine is in short supply, and many folks are coming down with the dreaded disease.
First off, and I cannot recommend this enough, if you get the flu, please seek out the help of a medical professional. There are many different types of influenza, and the treatment for them frequently depends on the particular strain of the virus.
That being said, there are some general things that I do when the flu bug bites me. I do get the flu shot, particularly since I work around children.
In this entry, I am going to write about various Deitsch remedies for a general influenza infection. In other posts, I will focus on aspects of the flu (coughs, skin sensitivity, etc.). Please recognize that this a topic about which many cures and remedies have been written or passed in Braucherei from practitioner to practitioner. Thus, there will almost certainly be more blog entries on influenza in the future. Additionally, I will write more in later blog posts about sympathetic cures for various influenza-types of afflictions.
For most types of flu, Elderberry (Sambucus nigra; Deitsch: Hollerbeer, Hollebeer) extract is where I being. Besides Elderberry's well-documented anti-viral properties, it is sacred to the goddess Holle and is a useful herb and a sacred plant in many ways. Deitsch tradition, for example, holds that one should place the trimmings from one's fingernails and toenails under the branches of an elder bush in order to ensure that they cannot be used against the self in magical practices. This tradition may also be related to the Norse story of Naglfar, the boat made of the fingernails and toenails of the dead. According to the Norse tradition, Naglfar will ferry the hordes of chaos at Ragnarök to battle against the gods. While Urglaawe the Gedderdemmerung ("Doom of the Gods") somewhat differently, the roots of the need to protect the nail clippings may hearken back to older Teutonic beliefs.
But back to influenza... Elder's flowering tops are the best parts to use as combatants against the flu, and some extracts contain the tops as well as the berries. However, a simple infusion (tea) of Elder flowering tops (1 cup thrice per day) starts to loosen the flu by inducing the flow of mucous. The tea can help to ease some of the symptoms of the flu. It will also induce a mild sweat, which can help to reduce fever. Farm at Coventry makes an excellent Elderberry Elixir that I have used to treat my flu infections in the past.
An interesting side remedy that I have come across through practicing Braucherei consists of Rue (Ruta graveolens; Deitsch: die Raude) and Garlic (Allium sativum and other species; Deitsch: der Gnowwelich or der Gnowwlich. In Montgomery and Bucks Counties: der Gnowwloch) boiled together in a a strong wine vinegar. The dosage related to me was to drink a cup of the infused vinegar in the morning and again in the evening. As is always the case with Rue, one must be careful not to drink it to excess because it is toxic. Also, as Rue promotes menstruation, it should never be consumed during pregnancy.
In parts of Bucks County, there is also an old folk belief that the flu can be fought off by wearing garlic cloves in one's shoes. The thought is that the cloves will express their juices during walking, and the feet will absorb the juices and distribute garlic's benefits throughout the entire body.
I have tried neither the Rue and Garlic Vinegar nor the Garlic in the shoes trick, so I cannot personally attest to either. However, I have plenty of Rue still growing. Perhaps I'll give that one a try.
Rachel Weaver, M.H. describes her Super Duper Tonic in her book, Be Your Own "Doctor" (Reinholds, PA: Share-A-Care Publications, 2010, p. 316). This tonic takes equal parts of chopped or shredded Garlic, Onion (Allium cepa; Deitsch: die Zwiwwel), Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana or Cochlearia armoracia; Deitsch: die Meerreddich), Ginger (Zingiber officinale; Deitsch: der Imber), and Cayenne (Capsicum frutescens; Deitsch: der Rotpeffer).
Weaver advises filling a quart-sized jar with the chopped mixture and cover with raw Apple Cider Vinegar (I recommend Bragg's or an organic, raw apple cider vinegar produced in your locale). Let the mixture stand for two weeks, then strain and bottle. Weaver states that the mixture can be used anywhere you would use an antibiotic.
The dosage I would use with this mixture would be, at the first sign of the flu, one tablespoon every 20 minutes.
Then we have Purple Coneflower, better known medically as Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea pallida, and Echinacea tennesseensis; Deitsch: die Purpelriedblumm). Echinacea is used widely in herbal medicine these days. As Susan Hess of the Farm at Coventry points out in her Homestead Herbalism classes, though, Echinacea does not build the immune system; instead, it stimulates the immune potential that one already has.
Echinacea is great for acute viral and bacterial infections, including the flu. The best means for transmitting the medicinal benefits of Echinacea are in the form of a tincture. For myself, I take 2 teaspoons of Echinacea tincture every 2-3 hours with a maximum of 8 teaspoons per day. If everyone around me has the flu but I feel fine, I use echinacea prophylactically (20-30 drops per day). Again, though, please check with your doctor before consuming any herb medicinally.
When making an Echinacea tincture myself, I typically use the root, but the seeds and flower heads are also medicinally active. For fresh herb, I use (1:2), which means 1 part herb to 2 parts menstruum. The menstruum is the liquid portion of the tincture. In this case, the menstruum would consist of 75% alcohol (Everclear, if available) and 25% distilled water. For dried root, the ratio changes to 1:5, again in 75% alcohol and 25% water proportions.
People with certain autoimmune disorders, including Lupus, should refrain from taking Echinacea. As is always the case, do not copy or ingest my remedies without consulting a medical professional.
A discussion of traditional Deitsch flu remedies would be incomplete without mentioning Lomatium (Lomatium dissectum; Deitsch: die Bletzliwatzel), which is a plant native to the northwestern US. Northwestern Amerindian tribes were using Lomatium as a cure for colds, flu, and, when combined with Yarrow (Achillea millefolium; Deitsch: die Schofribbe) for sexually transmitted diseases (see Chevallier, Andrew. Encyclopedia of herbal medicine, p. 228. New York: Dorling and Kindersley, 2000). The root of this herb played an important role in combating the Spanish Flu (Schpaanischer Gripp) epidemic of 1917 and 1918. This is relevant today because the Spanish Flu is an H1N1 type of virus, as is the Swine Flu.
Keep in mind, though, that the Spanish Flu and the Swine Flu are not identical, and our technology and knowledge is far ahead of where it was in 1918.
Philadelphia was hit particularly hard by the Spanish Flu. More than half of the population of the city had contracted the virus within six months of its arrival, and there were over 16,000 deaths in the city in that same time period. Oral lore tells us that the typical treatments, such as Echinacea, were ineffective, in large part due to the fact that Echinacea stimulates the entire immune response. As inflammation played a large role in the severity of the Spanish Flu, a stimulated immune response included increased inflammatory response. Thus, Echinacea added fuel to the inflammation fire. Brauchers switched over from the typical antiviral treatments to Lomatium as the primary combatant. It is likely, though not definite, Ernst Krebs, the doctor who observed the success of Lomatium among the Amerindian tribes, is ultimately the source for the knowledge and use of Lomatium among the Deitsch.
Very anecdotal reports claim that one of the reasons that the Spanish Flu did not hit the interior of Pennsylvania as hard as it did Philadelphia is that Braucherei was still a widespread practice, and the use of Lomatium thwarted the damage extending into the Deitscherei. I would love to see statistical analyses and demographics of the Spanish Flu's impact on Pennsylvania.
I would like to stress again, though: Anyone who suspects that he or she may have any sort of flu should go to see a licensed medical professional. This information is provided as an historical record of remedies and cures used among the Deitsch as well as remedies that I use for myself. :)