Flu Shot Herbal Alternatives
Chinese Herbs & Supplements, Self-Care

Beyond the flu shot: Herbal medicine remedies to help prevent cold and flu

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Flu shots: A sure thing?

It can feel rather devastating to learn the flu shot was only 42% effective in preventing any A or B viral infection in people of all ages, last 2016-2017 season. Children aged 6 mo to 8 yrs did best with the shot, with 61% efficacy. For folks over 65, the flu shot came in at only 25% effective. It’s understandable that people question whether or not to get the shot. I don’t plan on telling you here what to do; so don’t read on for the answer to that question! I do, however, hope to introduce you to more options available to you as you move forward into winter, and the impending cold and flu season.

My Top 3 Herbal Remedies for Preventing Colds and Flu


In a 2011 study, Elderberry was shown to inhibit the replication of influenza A and B viruses. It also demonstrated antimicrobial effects against Strep. Even after one’s caught a bug, Elderberry still works to shorten the cold’s duration and symptoms. The great news, researchers found no unwanted side effects after 12 weeks of a 500mg/d daily dose. Yay!! I admit this is one of my go-tos for a daily boost. In short:

  • Use as a preventative at least 10 days before the season or travel (and up to 5 days after traveling)
  • Use throughout cold/flu to limit duration/symptoms
  • Consider making your own syrup to save some money

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For us Chinese herbalists, it’s not common to prescribe a single herb; it’s more common that we prescribe a formula. One of our most famous formulas for preventing cold and flu (which contains Astragalus) is Yu Ping Feng San, aka Jade Screen Formula. This formula has been shown to prevent viral infections (including even SARS) and enhance cellular immunity. These are also easy to transport and swallow (~5mm in size). In short:

  • Use as a preventative at least 10 days before the season or travel (and up to 5 days after traveling)
  • If cold/flu symptoms present, switch to a different formula
  • Caution with headaches; best to have an assessment before using if you are prone to these

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Medicinal Mushrooms

A number of medicinal mushrooms have been shown to demonstrate anti-viral effects. So, similarly, you’ll find these best serve when taken in a formula, such as Stamets’ MyCommunity or Stamets 7. In an ideal world, combine it with Elderberry for a daily tonic. In short:

  • Use as a daily preventative
  • Use throughout cold/flu to shorten duration
  • Caution with low blood sugar/pressure; avoid if you have a mushroom allergy 🙂
trametes versicolor against HPV
Chinese Herbs & Supplements

Chinese Medicinal Mushrooms Effective Treatment Against HPV

medicinal mushrooms against HPV//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

New research is concluding that medicinal mushrooms and their extracts clear and eradicate Human Papillomavirus (HPV). –Source Article

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Article on Medicinal Mushroom Treatment of HPV

Medicinal Mushrooms Proving to Eradicate Human Papillomavirus

Author’s Key Points

• By age fifty, according to the CDC, 80% of sexually active women in the US will have had a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
• Of the different strains, HPV-16 and HPV-18 can cause cervical cancer
• 90% of HPV infections are cleared within two years by the immune system
• Chinese medicinal mushrooms, namely Trametes Versicolor, Ganoderma lucidum, and Lentinula edodes, are proving to be an effective treatment for the remaining 10% who face a high risk of cervical cancer
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How do these herbs work in Chinese medicine?

雲芝 (Yun Zhi, Turkey Tail)

Turkey Tail in Chinese medicine is considered a sweet medicinal that is cool in nature and able to enter the Lung, Spleen and Liver channels. It is used to strengthen the Spleen and dispel damp; clear heat-toxin; and reduce tumors.

靈芝 (Ling Zhi, Reishi)

Reishi is considered a bland medicinal in Chinese medicine, warm in nature. It enters the Lung, Spleen and Kidney channels. It tonifies qi and calms the Spirit; stops cough and wheezing.

香菇 (Xiang Gu, Shiitake)

Shiitake is considered a sweet and neutral medicinal, able to enter the Liver and Stomach meridians. Its TCM actions include tonifying deficiency; strengthening the Spleen and appetite; expelling wind; transforming phlegm and regulating qi; resolve toxicity and anti-cancer.

What are their targeted therapeutic effects?

According to the research Stamets has compiled (see references), these medicinal mushrooms demonstrate the following effects:

How do I take them?

As with all Chinese medicinals, the best treatment is a holistic one. This is to say, one that treats the person, not their symptoms. The best way to take Chinese herbs is in formula, as prescribed by a licensed Chinese herbalist.