How 7 Top Herbalists and Doctors Fight the Flu

No doubt about it, the flu is rough and can take you out for days. And some years the flue vaccine is less than 50% effective, so you can't always rely on it to protect you, either! Fortunately there are some effective botanical and nutritional medicines to help you prevent, treat and recover from the flu. Interested in knowing what 7 leading herbalists and docs do to personally prevent and treat the flu? I did, too! And since they’re my pals, I asked.

Here’s what they told me:

Kerry Bone, Herbalist, Co-author of Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine; Director of Research & Development – MediHerb

The 3 main things that I recommend to my patients and do myself are:

  • Plenty of Echinacea root. The dose is crucial. I use my product Echinacea Supreme. My baseline dose is 2.5 g/day in tablet form, or 5 mL of liquid. But in a situation where there is a highly virulent strain around, I double that baseline dose throughout the duration of threat for prevention. Then the trick is to temporarily double or triple this if you feel an infection coming on to ward it off. This works for me the majority of times.
  • Probiotics help improve immunity and prevent infection.
  • Wash your hands before anything goes into your mouth.


Tieraona Low Dog, MD, Herbalist, Fellowship Director, Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, University of Arizona

After having H1N1 in August of 2009, I have an appreciation for just how sick influenza makes you. The fever and chills were so intense.

Fever Tea

  • Yarrow
  • Elder flowers
  • Peppermint

To prepare: Mix equal parts of the dried herbs. Pour 2 cups of near boiling water over 2 Tbsp herbs. Steep 10 minutes. Strain. Add some honey or maple syrup – this stuff doesn't taste good but it lowers the fever, makes you sweat, eases headache and joint pain and I truly believe helps you fight off infection faster. Drink 1/4 cup every hour, while awake.

Tinctures (assuming these are all 1:5 strengths) for 3-5 days

  • Pleurisy root – 10 drops every 2 hours while awake (up to 8 doses)
  • Licorice root – 20 drops every 2 hours while awake (up to 8 doses)
  • Boneset leaf/flowering tops – 10 drops every 2 hours while awake (up to 8 doses)

Use these in combination for 3-5 days

  • Elderberry (Gaia or Nature's Way) – take the maximum recommended dose
  • Loviral (Herbs, Etc) – take as directed
  • Gypsy Cold Care – make strong and drink 1/4 cup every hour
  • Zinc lozenges (Zand Elderberry with Zinc) – one every 2 hours
  • Vitamin C


Larry Rosen, MD, Co-author, Treatment Alternatives for Children, The Whole Child Center, Oradell, NJ 

For prevention I use:

  • Vitamin D3 to keep blood test levels above 40ng/dl.
  • Probiotics by Klaire Labs Therbiotic Complete, 25B CFU per day mixed strains.
  • Hand washing with soap and water and a natural, essential oil based hand sanitizer (the recipe from my book, based on Thieves' Blend contains cinnamon, clove, rosemary, eucalyptus, lemon oils with pure aloe vera gel and water). Nourish, exercise, breathe and rest.


David Winston, Herbalist, President of Herbalist & Alchemist, Inc., founder/director of David Winston's Center for Herbal Studies

Favorite flu prevention:

  • The Traditional Chinese Medicine formula Jade Wind Screen
  • Andrographis (3-4 ml 4-6 x per day) as both a preventative and treatment
  • N-Acetycysteine – 600 mg twice daily for influenza prevention


  • The Chinese patent medicine Gan Mao Ling is useful for early stage influenza, I think it works better than Yin Qiao San which is often used.
  • Hot Boneset/Yarrow/Ginger/Elder Flower/Chrysanthemum flower tea also is effective for early stage flu. For kids I use Peppermint, Ginger, Elder and Chrysanthemum flowers tea with Elderberry syrup.
  • Finally when someone comes down with the first flu symptoms – headache, scratchy throat, malaise, have them put on flannel PJ's, drink the hot tea mentioned earlier (8-12 oz), get under the covers and sweat your brains out.  In most cases the next morning you feel like a wrong out dishrag, your bed clothes, sheets, and blankets are soaked, but you do not have the flu and by the afternoon, you are back on your feet.


Roy Upton, Herbalist, Director of the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia

As soon as you feels symptoms coming on:

  • Take hot ginger baths daily – The water needs to be hotter than a regular hot bath to kick sweating in, but not burning. While in the bath, drink a hot cup of ginger tea, then go to bed.  To prepare the bath, use a handful of grated fresh ginger steeped in 1 gallon of water for 15 minutes. Keep the pot or jar covered while steeping.
  • Take Yin qiao, a Chinese herbal cold remedy, with Andrographis – equivalent of about 3 g Yin Qiao per dose 4 times daily; andrographis approximately 1 g equivalent daily.
  • Elderberry Syrup – 1 Tbs every waking hour for first 2 days of symptoms
  • Eat a diet of hot broths (miso and seaweed); no dairy; nothing cold or raw; light fare; plenty of hot
  • Ginger or peppermint tea. If you have a fever; peppermint, elder flower, and yarrow tea is a favorite standby. If aching bone symptoms with fever are predominant, add boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) and take 1 cup every few hours. It’s very bitter but effective.


Donnie Yance, Herbalist author of Herbal Medicine, Healing and Cancer, Founder of the Mederi Foundation and Natura Health Products

I recommend the following protocol for enhancing immunity and recovery from the flu:

  • Adaptogens are essential for prevention and for recovery and should be taken daily, except during the acute phase of an illness (indicated by fever). When traveling, during times of increased stress, or when you have been exposed to a virus, I recommend doubling the dosage of Vital Adapt or Power Adapt and taking ImmuCare I or II. I also recommend a double dose of adaptogens during the recovery phase, which is usually 3-4 days after exposure, for up to 2 weeks. Adaptogens improve ability of the immune system to 1) Recognize, 2) Respond, and 3) Recover.
  •  Take Flew Away at the first sign of symptoms and continue until symptoms have abated. The herbs in Flew Away combat the virus, ease symptoms such as fever and muscle pain, and help to hasten recovery. The formula includes elderberry, which inhibits viral replication; propolis, a powerful antiviral; and boneset, forsythia, and yarrow, which are traditionally used to stimulate diaphoresis and expel toxins.
  •  Additional nutrients and botanicals for prevention and recovery include Botanabol, Night Gain, Innate Response zinc, N-acetyl-Cysteine and a good probiotic (Jarro-dophilus or BioImmersion).
  • I recommend a diaphoretic tea of the following herbs: peppermint, elder flowers, yarrow, honeysuckle, boneset, linden, and ginger. Drink several cups a day; in the evening soak in a hot Epsom salt bath, go to bed, get under the covers and sweat. This old-fashioned remedy helps to stimulate immune function and alleviates flu-related aches and pains.
  • Eat light and nourishing foods such as this delicious Hot and Sour Soup.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2-3 green onions, chopped
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 6 ounces frozen snow peas
  • 1 (8 ounce) package firm tofu, cubed
  • 1 (8 ounce) can sliced water chestnuts, drained


  • Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add red bell pepper and green onions and sauté for 5 minutes.
  • Add 2 cups water, broth and soy sauce, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • In a separate medium bowl, combine vinegar, red pepper flakes, ground black pepper, cornstarch, 3 tablespoons water and sesame oil. Add to soup and simmer for 5 additional minutes, or until soup becomes thick and bubbly.
  • Add tofu, snow peas and water chestnuts and continue cooking 10 minutes, or until heated through.


Aviva Romm, MD, Herbalist (and yours truly)

Of course, I have a few of my own favorite recipe to share, in addition to concurring with those above. I've had the flu before and know – it's awful. Here's my favorite remedy for the horrible aches and pains with the flu. It's my personal (and much safer!) alternative to ibuprofen and tylenol.

Equal parts black cohosh and Jamaican dogwood tinctures:

Combine the tinctures and take 3 mL (about 60 drops). Repeat in 15 minutes, then again in 15 minutes the first time you take it. Thereafter take about 60 drops every 2 hours. This can be given to kids 7 and over, only. Divide your child's weight over 150, ie for a 30 pound child: 30/150 = 1/5 and give that fraction of the above dose. So for a 30 pound child 1/5 of 60 drops. Make sense?

Do NOT exceed this dosing. If you experience headache or shortness of breath, discontinue, though these would be rare side effects. This remedy will help you to sleep (that is, don't drive while you're taking it!)

And for a quick cough remedy that's safe for kids and adults:

Combine equal parts of echinacea glycerite, elderberry syrup, anise seed tincture, and catnip tincture. Mix and give 1 dropper 4-6 times/day. Continue for up to a week and if there's a tendency for recurrent coughs stay on it for several weeks. The echinacea prevents recurrence, the elder is a respiratory immune tonic, the catnip relaxing and the anise mucolytic and a respiratory antispasmodic.

I personally use HerbPharm, Gaia Herbs, Natura Health ProductsMediHerb, and Herbalist and Alchemist — all excellent companies with high quality products (I have no financial stake in any herb companies). Mountain Rose is a fantastic on-line source for ordering your herbs, especially ones you can't find locally, or in small amounts.

For additional blogs on the flu by Aviva Romm see:

6 Doctor Recommended Tips for Preventing Flu Naturally

7 Natural Cold Busters

Please, share your favorite remedies below…



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In several responses, Echinacea and Peppermint are recommended. What about nursing mamas? For example, in the Fever Tea, would one substitute another herb for peppermint?

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    aviva romm

    Peppermint is absolutely legit for nursing mommas! No contraindications at all...And remember, you're only using this short term... max several days.

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      Claire Hirsch

      But mothers experiencing (or worried about) low milk-supply may want to avoid peppermint, no?

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        I had heard the same thing and avoided all mints for the 3 years I was breastfeeding.

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Joanna @way2gomom

Great list! I'm partial to adding fresh minced garlic to our meals before serving and my friend Kia's recipe for Garlic Lemonade -

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Thank you, Aviva, for stating that you have no financial stakes in any of the companies you listed! I was, however, a bit perturbed that the very first professional listed (Kerry Bone) recommended his own product right off the bat. Did any of the other contributors have financial stakes in herbal companies? I would be grateful if this was disclosed! Thanks again!

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    Erin - often, herbalists appear to be either unaware or unashamed about promotion of their own products or the need for disclosure of their financial interests than their conventional cousins. In the above group, Yance and Bone are both self-promoting. Bone is at least candid and Yance avoids mentioning he owns Natura. artemis

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    Hi Erin...I think Aviva covered most of the product affiliations in the name/title section beside each expert. Kerry, David, and Donnie all have product lines. If I remember correctly, Tieraona used to be associated with a small regional tincture line. But, I'm not sure if that's still the case. Personally, I'm glad that Kerry mentions that he uses his own product. I'd be worried if he used a competitor's. ;-) More importantly, it allows you to then find out specifically what he uses (e.g. 1:2 cold maceration with X% of ethanol). I would much prefer this over generic mention of "Echinacea tincture".

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    aviva romm

    Hi Everyone! Great questions about conflicts of interest amongst the contributors. I thought a great deal about this, and it's why i put the company along with any owners... I have struggled with the issue of endorsing products one owns... I've had offers to start my own line so have given the issue an enormous amount of consideration... The herbalists I included a strong, smart formulators who are also clinicians -- or at least have been for large parts of their careers. This is important because they have walked their talk and created formulas that they know work. And because they are clinical herbalists, they know you have to not only have a good formula, but good quality ingredients for the products to be effective. The herbalists I included actually DO use their own products because they TRUST them -- I know this about them first hand. Of course this is not the case for all product manufacturers. But it is for those above. For example. I've known Kerry Bone for 15 years, and for as long he's relied on his own echinacea product (Echinacea Supreme, to be exact) to keep him well when he was traveling 50 weekends of the year to countries all over the globe. Ditto with Donnie Yance and David Winston -- they use their products. I do, too! For further disclosure, Roy Upton is the manager at Planetary Formulas, overseeing their product quality; he does not have ownership in the company. But yes, let's all keep our 'critical thinking caps' on-- as you are-- about this and demand full disclosures-- and not hesitate to ask folks about their conflicts of interest. With respect and gratitude to be amongst smarties! Aviva

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      Amber August

      For what it's worth, My naturopath, Dr. Kate Naumes, has no interest or connection to these companies at all. I have the flu right now, and she immediately reccomended s-clear and Flew Away, she uses them herself. She also gains nothing by endorsing them, she just thinks they are good products. I have to say, the s-clear is freaking amazing!!! It will REALLY open up a clogged nose! Amber

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I've heard really good things about green tea as an anti-viral. I like it because it's easy and inexpensive!

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    aviva romm

    It is antiviral, but you'd have to drink a good bit to prevent illness. However, drinking a cup of hot beverage, because of the vapors, does help reduce nasal microbes, reducing frequency of upper respiratory infections. Since green tea is a diuretic, and you want to stay well hydrated in an illness, I don't recommend it while you are ill. Some use green tea capsules to boost the immune system; it is an antioxidant herb for sure, but not my go to for flu prevention or treatment.

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Can you please highlight above remedies that ARE NOT safe in pregnancy? Thanks!!!

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    aviva romm

    Hi Kirstin, Easier to tell you which ARE safe in pregnancy :) Elderberry syrup (not elder flower tea) Ginger Echinacea Peppermint (though it can worsen reflux) Zinc The soups mentioned are good, too. The rest, no go during pregnancy, including no to very hot baths in the first trimester.... Be well! Aviva

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      Hi Aviva, What about pain relief with flu during pregnancy? Boneset works very well for me but I see it on the "no" list due to PAs. What about California Poppy? I wasn't able to sleep last night due to pain and that's quite worrisome when pregnant. (I'm in my 2nd trimester and not prone to miscarriage)

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      This is such an awesome list. I am breastfeeding a 23 pound one-year old. Which are breastfeeding safe? Which will pass immune boosters through my breast milk? And/or which can be given directly to my daughter? Thank you!

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Thank you Aviva for always spreading light and wisdom on these subjects. I am a midwife and I very much appreciate your insight and sharing with clients.

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That people, whoever they may be, have a financial stake in some product they recommend can be a concern. But that said, why wouldn't someone who feels strongly about what is best for some condition, develop, recommend and provide it? It is frustrating at times to read about what would be good to use for any given thing and then not know where it may be obtained.

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Thanks for providing "where to get" info.

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What a treasure trove of detailed wisdom, Aviva! MY THANKS! Warm wishes to you, Chara

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Jane Hawley Stevens

Hi Aviva Thanks for providing this information! Herbs that work well for me avoiding and lessening the flu are of course Elderberry, the herb of the year, echinacea. Andrographis Elderflower and yarrow I enjoy making. Cough syrups too Elderberry and cherry bark is a nice combo and I have found pine and thyme great for conditions with more congestion Be well! Jane

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Iris P. Weaver

Thanks for all the wonderful suggestions you compiled, Aviva. I actually was happy to see some of the herbalists talking about their products that they themselves use. If you make products, and don't use what you make, then I'd be worried! It is reassuring that they use what they make, or oversee.

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Aviva, I got almost all the herbs to make the quiet cough formula for my kids but I don't have a way to measure ounces ( for herbs) Is there any other way to do it. Teaspoon maybe? Help! If you had your own products I would buy them for sure. Making tinctures, oils, etc... is just not easy for me :-)

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    Hi there! Anywhere you see an ounce for whole herbs, go ahead and substitute a medium sized handful... :) Aviva

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      I just wanted to mention that I have been giving my daughter licorice and fennel tea for constipation( I got the recipe from your book for raising natural healthy children) and it has been a blessing. She loves drinking tea so it makes it really easy. I have to confess that I drink it too. We both love it! :-)

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    OH and for tinctures, an oz is the size most tinctures come in....1 liquid oz is about 2 TBS.

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      Terry Vanderheyden

      correct. 1 fluid ounce is 29.6 (~30) ml

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alexandra cook

I love all this and am new to this ..I would like to know where I start to get all these plants roots and essences you are talking about...please advise thanks

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    Mountain Rose Herbs online

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I would like to know what brand of Vitamin D3 you recommend?

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    I don't recommend any specific brand... I take something from Whole Foods.

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Kristen @ MIX | Wellness Solutions For A Balanced Life

Hi Aviva, Thanks so much for this amazing post! My 3 year old has been a non-stop germ factory since pre-school started in Sept - oye! Quick question about the quick cough remedy you mention above - I have it ready to go and mixed, but want to see how much really constitutes a "dropper full"? I suppose depending on the size of your dropper, it can differ. Thanks so much fpr your response and all the best! Kristen Boucher

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Hi Aviva- I just wanted to thank you for sharing your wonderfully blended perspective on caring for our families and ourselves. I have 9 children, ages 33-10, (yes, all born at home) and have used all different approaches to keeping our family healthy. I have to tell you, your approach is the best. After learning homeopathy, reflexology and herbs, I have held a personal belief that I should be able to fix anything using these approaches. If I needed allopathic medicine, I felt I had failed. All these years, I felt as if I lost a fight and had "losers guilt" any time I had to take a sick child to the pediatricians office for an antibiotic. You have broadened my perspective and shown me the value of all branches of medicine. Thanks for making M.D.'s okay again. About the "Flew Away"- I had a lingering flu and tried this product. It not only arrived in the mail very quickly, but immediately helped me feel better. It was the kick I needed to get back on my feet. I highly recommend it. So, my friend, here's to Mom's- young and old- that work so hard to raise healthy, happy families. And here's to all you do- kudos to you and thank you!

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Just finished making up my second ever batch of elderberry syrup (following Rosemary Gladstar's recipe) and wondering what I can do with the berry "mush" that I strained out of the syrup? Seems like it would be a great addition to smoothies or something (and an extra boost to the immunity factor?) but don't want to do something toxic or poisonous to me or my loved ones so wanted to check! Thank you for all your awesome resources and knowledge. :D

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    the mash is usually discarded...

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      Yes, discard the mash! Especially since the seeds can be toxic in some species. The berry and flowers wonderful medicine, but strain seeds and no leaves!

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Deborah Caldwell

I only have the flu for three days, once every three years or so. Each morning I take 2 Echinecha pills and two cups of tea, into which i put two teaspoons of maple syrup and two teaspoons of raw vinegar. I never have had a flu shot. I am 73 and take no medicines or aspirins whatsoever, and probably never will. Of course I do eat a steady diet of farm fresh food, render my own lard, and use raw milk only. Thanks for this post. I have discovered you through my friend John Woytowitz, M.D.

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I got the book "Healing Tonics" by Jeanine Pollak, in 2007. I made the tonic "Winter Shield Protective (p. 32)", and began using it every fall. I have not had the flu since then. Occasionally, I may get a cold, but it is much shorter in duration.

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Katerina Pozzi

Nobody mentioned hydrotherapy or the Wet Sock Treatment! At the onset of a flu, as David Winston said, sweating is key, but so is a boost in overall circulation so your immune system can kick in more productively. I've had rapid improvement within 2 days of using the Wet Sock Treatment, but I recommend doing it for at least 3 nights to completely clear out a virus. If you don't know what the Wet Sock Treatment is read this: Yes, it sounds crazy but it really works! And adding elderberry syrup internally and yarrow tea both in the foot bath and as a tea are sure to get you feeling better in no time. Finally, in addition to taking western remedies, I would add that you'd be best off seeing a licensed Chinese medicine practitioner to get an herbal formula that is customized for your symptom presentation (instead of just popping yin qiao san or gan mao ling). While Chinese patent formulas can work well in a lot of cases, they'll work better if they're customized because Chinese medicine doesn't see each flu as the same condition, and thus different remedies work for different people at different times. And if you see a practitioner you can get some acupuncture too, which will help you even more!