The Healing Power of the Flu (and Cold)*
"Fever can be seen as a cause for healing." ~Ibn Qayyim Al Jawziyya (1292-1350 AD) from Medicine of the Prophet
Everywhere I go these days I see signs of disease hysteria and particularly flu phobia. My phone rings, some robot tells me to get the flu shot. I open my email, the county says get your flu shot. I get a text from my health insurance to hurry up and get the flu shot. I go to get batteries from CVS and I’m offered a free flu shot. What is going on? Since when is the flu the biggest threat to humanity?
Cue the chorus of flu shot hype; “Thousands die every year of the flu!” “It’s your duty to not get sick and spread disease to others.” “The flu shot is easy and works.” And “Anyone can die of the flu, it’s super deadly.”
But this flu fright is really a very recent phenomenon. Not long ago were the days when our parents and grandparents put us in rooms with other sick children so we can get sick and get stronger. In fact, throughout almost all of human history and across most systems of medicine, the flu was understood to be a natural and beneficial process to exercise and build certain systems and functions in the human body. Though it is true that people die every year of the flu, this has always been the case for certain at risk populations like the elderly or immune compromised individuals. But if there have always been causalities from the flu, why are we now more paranoid about it than ever? And is it fair or even smart to reduce flu deaths to simply not getting the flu shot? Surely health and disease are far more complex than that!
Could it be that this modern hysterical fear of the flu is yet another symptom of the fear mongering socio-political paradigm we currently live in? Could it also be that since we’ve been increasingly meddling with infectious disease processes and cycles on both the macro and micro levels through vaccines, antibiotics and fever/flu suppressant medications, that flu viruses have mutated and adapted to become stronger? If the overuse of bacteria has led to the evolutionary adaptation of superbugs or deadly bacteria that no longer respond to antibiotics, then doesn’t it follow that the overuse of vaccines may also lead to super-viruses? [I would love to discuss this inquiry with a virologist and immunologist if anyone out there knows of one!] Bacteria and viruses are billions of years old and are highly intelligent adaptable disease entities. It seems like the height of human arrogance and error to think that we can outsmart billions of years of evolutionary intelligence and adaptability.
Again in most systems of medicine, disease is a natural occurrence that must exist in this physical realm of opposites. If there is light, there must be darkness. If there is health, there must be disease. In this universal understanding, disease also carries some physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual benefit for the affected person or persons. Flu and colds according to most systems of medicines are an opportunity for the immune system to work and gain strength and also a chance for toxins or imbalances to be released.
Like any other system, organ or muscle in our bodies, the immune system needs to work to build itself up and to increase its strength. Our heart needs cardiovascular exercise to get stronger, a muscle needs resistance and challenge to increase strength, and our immune systems need germs and disease to differentiate between self and non-self, or to individuate and write healthy DNA-- the immune system’s primary function in homeopathy. Thus, for the immune system to be exercised it must come into contact and interact with non-self to build memory and defenses.
The immune system is challenged through an interaction with germs and microbes and by actually going through the disease process. When a person and particularly a child goes through the disease process, which generally includes a fever and discharging or releasing of mucus or toxins through the skin, respiratory system or other eliminatory pathways, the immune systems builds memory, strength and can gain a learning and understanding of self and non-self as it imprints DNA sequences across other systems and organs. The benefits of colds and flus are so great that I believe there is a direct correlation between the decrease of acute diseases in childhood and the rise of chronic diseases in childhood and adulthood. If we don’t allow our bodies to get occasionally sick and throw disturbances out of the system, disturbances and imbalances can settle into chronic physical, emotional or mental ailments.
Why does getting sick make us stronger?
In homeopathy, a fever which is often the result of a cold or flu, is considered a vital process that facilitates and optimizes immune system function as well releases extremely beneficial chemicals to parts of the body that would otherwise not receive those chemicals and stimulations.
Fever is also appreciated as a very powerful ally in most traditional medicines as well. The recognition of the benefits fevers can be traced back in literature to Hippocrates, one of the ‘Great Fathers of Medicine’ who had boasted that, “if he were only allowed to create or provoke a fever, he could heal any disease.” The ancient Greek system of medicine, similar to Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, differentiates between fever types and benefits.
Though you wouldn’t know it with all the fever phobia instilled in us through big medicine, even conventional medicine is now catching up and admitting a fever can be good for children. (Learn more about which fevers need to be broken and when to break them below.)
And just common sense and experience will lead most to see the benefits of fever. If you ask parents who have tried letting a fever burn and have also tried the allopathic route of fearfully suppressing it with Tylenol, most of the time they will say that illnesses pass much quicker and with less complications when we let the fever and the immune system work. And doesn’t it seem both counter-intuitive and counter-productive to stop the body from doing what it has learned to do through evolution? Again, we have been told that not only must we try to avoid getting sick or feeling uncomfortable by any means necessary but when we do get sick we will often shut down our natural immune system responses by suppressing a fever or cold with anti-fever and anti-flu over the counter medications. This interference on both the macro (vaccines) and micro levels (antibiotics and anti-fever/cold medications) of human health will undoubtedly have effects on both public and individual wellness .
Colds and flus are also beneficial in that they offer the body a chance to liberate toxins from the system. All that disgusting snot is the body’s way of eliminating invaders or non-self and to push out other unnecessary excesses and imbalances. Sometimes infectious diseases also produce rashes, the skin is just another pathway for elimination. Hakim Chisti writes in his book The Traditional Healer’s Handbook “A fever rapidly accelerates the refining of accumulated superfluous matters in the body, ‘ripening’ them so that they can be eliminated. Tibb [Traditional Prophetic Medicine] calls this process of elimination the healing crisis.” (p.111) Thus, instead of trying to suppress colds and flus through vaccines or over the counter medications—homeopaths and traditional healers prefer to work in line with the natural physiological process of diseases.
How to reap the benefits of disease?
As flu season begins to approach, I increase our in-take of immune boosting vitamins and nutrients because if I could prevent us from getting the cold or flu all together by building up their immune systems naturally I’d much rather have that, of course. I am a mother after all. To help their immune systems, I make sure my kids get everything on this list and daily doses of my basic Elderberry Syrup Recipe. I also give them a homeoprophylaxis (HP) flu nosode as HP offers the learning of the disease without the suffering. (Read more about HP here.)
But when the flu or cold does hit, I support and manage rather than suppress their symptoms with a combination of homeopathic acute prescribing and some herbal support. [Here is a a resource I found very useful as a beginner in homeopathy. You can search by ailments or homeopathic remedy]. I will also increase their immune boosters along with some zinc, bone broth, and #4 from the list below.
And if a fever or symptoms become too much for one of us to handle (i.e. mama is not able to sleep) I do one or some of the below practices to break the fever and help eliminate discharges from their system.
1. Activated Charcoal
Recommended Brand: anything will do really but this is good-- Nature’s Way High Absorbency
Dose: 1-2 capsules empty in water or juice 2 hours away from anything nutritious or good
**IMPORTANT: Activated charcoal will absorb everything in the body, good or bad, so be sure to take it at least 2 hours away from any food, supplements, or remedies
2. Bentonite Clay for baths: pulls toxins out of body, reduces fever
Recommended Brand: you can easily find bentonite clay at most health foods and online stores including Amazon but the best deal I have found is here.
Use: put some clay and water in a separate plastic tub. Allow the child to play with the clay with their hands and feet for 15-20 minutes. Discard the clay outside in a garden or trash, pouring it into the tub can clog your pipes!
3. Epsom Salt Baths: Epsom Salts pull toxins out of the body while delivering much needed magnesium to our systems and breaks fever.
Recommended Brand: Most brands will do and Epsom Salts are readily available at most health food shops and Amazon.
Use: Put 1-2 cups of Epsom Salts in a luke warm (not cold and not hot) bath and allow child to soak and play for 20-30 minutes.
4. Tissue Mineral Cell Salt Kit: The Twelve Biochemical Tissue Salts (The easy homeopathy. :) )
Recommended Brand: Most brands will do but I found the most affordable here.
Recommended Book: On Amazon here. (You will definitely need a book but feel free to use one you already have or prefer).
Use: You will need to use your book to determine which salt to use for the particular symptoms you see.
Please note that a fever must be broken for the following reasons:
0-3 months: any fever in an infant this age must be broken and the baby should be seen by a pediatrician right away.
3-6 months: any fever above 102.F or 38.8C (usually children that develop febrile seizures develop them at the very first fever they get at a very early age. So if you’re child has gotten a fever and hasn’t gotten seizures before, they’re less likely to develop the condition and could benefit greatly from throwing fevers).
6 months–adults: any fever above 105F or 40.5C
if the fever accompanies excessive vomiting, listlessness, or a sore throat that lasts more than two days
Your gut tells you to break the fever! Always listen to your gut parents! When we make decisions for our children from a place of love not fear we are usually on the right path. So if your gut tells you something is wrong, call the doctor or break the fever right away! And vice versa, if everyone is telling you something and your gut is telling you otherwise, listen to your gut! A parent’s intuition is amongst the highest forms of intelligence, in my opinion.
Some final contemplations for discussion, I'd love to hear your insights...
Could the increase in immune system function by going through the disease process thus increase our overall health over time? As our immune system builds on its learning and is able to better individuate and manage non-self invaders, wouldn’t other systems and functions also work better? Again according to most systems of medicines, all systems and functions are inter-related and inter-dependent. So if the immune system is suppressed by lack of of exposure to germs or interference with the disease process, than how will other systems like the neurological, endocrine and GI systems, be affected? Why is there such a huge and unprecedented rise in auto-immune disorders, allergies, cancers and mental illness? Could that have something to do with how much we are interfering with our immune system’s chance to individuate and engineer healthy DNA? In homeopathy, when mild and acute diseases are suppressed it drives the disease deeper into the system, affecting more vital organs and processes. Could this fear of the flu be making us sicker? I would say yes. In fact, I have found that most decisions made out of fear, whether in health or otherwise, tend to lead to negative or unwanted outcomes.
My homeopathy teacher used to tell us that those who get colds don't get cancer and wouldn't even treat his colds with homeopathy when he would get sick. In fact, many people I know are often surprised to see me sick because I guess it is assumed that those who work in the healing arts are automatically somehow healed or know how to heal themselves. That is far from true and besides the point. When one of us in the family get the cold or flu, I tend to let it run its course while managing symptoms and supporting the person to make them as comfortable as possible. Because getting the occasional flu and cold is healing for us.
“If you desire healing, let yourself fall ill let yourself fall ill.”
~ Mawlana Jallaleddin Rumi (qs)
May you all be blessed with health, clarity, gratitude and guidance. And the occasional cold or flu. ;)
* (Dethelefsen, T. & Dahlke, R.) The Healing Power of Illness: Understanding what your symptoms are telling you. Sentient Publications; 1 edition (March 7, 2016)