Influenza remedies go au natural

By Nina Gougis

Herbal and folk medicine companies expect increased sales this season as the flu vaccine shortage has more people searching for alternative treatments.

Sales for herbal supplements like echinacea, goldenseal, garlic and green tea and other folk remedies have increased because of the vaccine shortage.

For health food stores like Duck Soup Coop, 129 E. Hillcrest Drive, there is generally more interest in alternative flu remedies as winter approaches, general manager Peggy James said.

However, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention caution consumers who use the products because many of them are not FDA approved and said such alternatives are not as effective as the vaccine.

“There is no scientific evidence that any herbal, homeopathic or any folk remedies have any benefit against influenza,” CDC spokeswoman Christine Pearson said.

However, healthy practices, such as drinking plenty of liquids, getting rest and avoiding alcohol and tobacco could help prevent the flu, she said.

Popular alternative treatments include homeopathy, an ancient medical practice that originated in the 17th century and is popular throughout Europe and becoming more popular in the U.S., according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Like a vaccine, homeopathic treatments strengthen the body’s defense mechanisms by using diluted substances that would cause similar symptoms of a disease if used in a more potent form.

Boiron, the maker of the first homeopathic flu treatment in the U.S., Oscillococcinum (Oscillo), has seen a large increase in sales because of the vaccine shortage, consumer information representative Rick Replogle said.

Although he said the treatment could be effective in treating the symptoms, Oscillo is not an alternative to a flu vaccine.

“Tests and studies show it has worked in relieving flu symptoms, but its use as a preventative medicine has not been established,” Replogle said.

The retail price for the supplement, which should be taken three times a day, is about $25 for 12 doses and $14 for six doses. Prices for echinacea, green tea capsules and goldenseal supplements range from $13 to $20 for 100 capsules.

Unlike Boiron, Duck Soup Coop, which sells several herbal extracts and homeopathic remedies, has not seen any unusual increase in alternative flu remedy sales because of the vaccine shortage, James said. “There is always an increase of people seeking homeopathic and alternative methods this time of year.”

She said the store workers cannot recommend treatment for customers but encourage them to do their own research to find what is best for their health.

“Our main stand is that if you have good nutrition, your predisposition to getting sick won’t be that great,” James said.

For more information on alternative treatment, visit the NCCAM Web site at or visit the CDC Web site at