The Yearly Onslaught: Managing Colds & Flu

by Dr. Greg Eckel – Nature Cures Clinic director

Uh oh, it’s that time of year again… sniffles, coughs, fevers oh my…

Every year we get into the same discussions about whether one should get the flu shot, how to handle a fever, how to get through a cold. Well look no further, here is a resource for you. I’ll share what I do for my family and loved ones (that includes you!).

Shot or no shot? Join the discussion at

First of all, you have heard the virtues about vitamin D. In this case it helps activate natural killer cells. Natural killer cells are a major part of your innate immunity (you’ll have to ask me about one of my favorite super heroes….), which will help you overcome countless viruses. If you don’t know your blood level of Vitamin D, I highly encourage you to get it done at your next blood draw. You can then individualize your dose of Vitamin D. Ideally you want your blood level to between 50-80 ng/ml.

The next piece is always a shocker as it sounds so wrong…the wet sock treatment. In these PC times, it’s been renamed “warming sock treatment.” (By me!) You need a pair of cotton socks and a pair of wool socks. You take a hot foot bath before bed, put the cotton socks under the faucet water as cold as it’ll go, ring them out (so they are damp, not dripping), and put these on your very warm feet. Pull the wool socks over top of that and go directly to bed, do not pass go. This is home hydrotherapy.

At first signs of any upper respiratory illness (sore throat, nasal congestions, sneezes), do this technique for a few evenings to stimulate your immune response. It increases your blood flow at night, your feet will be dry in the morning, and your head will be more clear.

For those with perennial runny nose and congestion, I feel for you. Look no further than EHB (Echinacea, Hydrastis, and Berberine). I use EHB at the first signs of any type of ‘cold.’ This is a very drying formula, has a lot of immune system punch, including garlic and vitamin A among other ingredients. This is also my first go to when I’ve seen a lot of sneezing, coughing patients during the day. We sell it in the Nature Cures e-store — check it out there if you don’t have time to come in to the clinic.

Another component of your immune system function is your gut. Did you knowthat roughly 90% of your immune system surrounds your gut in the GALT (gutassociated lymphoid tissue)? Probiotics are a great addition to your home medicine cabinet. Every doctor has their favorite blend of beneficial bacteria…. of course we have our favorites at the clinic, high ORAC or super natent are two of my favorites.

I’m not impressed with the latest and greatest strands of human microflora. I find most of the time this gets into marketing hype on the most recent research article on so and so particular brand. We do our research so you don’t have to is what I’ll tell you. We see what works clinically and stick with that.

For the kiddos, we have a chewable vitamin C that goes down easy. No complaints coming from them in the morning, even requests for it, when mama or papa forgets. It’s always nice to not have to force anything on them.
Living in the hometown of Linus Pauling, one can’t write an article on immune system function without mentioning vitamin C.

I’m going to leave the discussion about the flu vaccine for those that are interested. If you are interested in that discussion, let’s carry that on our facebook page. Please post a question you have and I’ll be sure to get on there and answer.
Here’s to a healthy and happy new year to you!

-Dr. Eckel




Image Courtesy USACE Europe District

Kick that cold with a few kitchen staples

‘Tis the season for runny noses, sore throats, headaches, coughing, and brain fog.  Yay!!

Before you race to Walgreens, peek in your kitchen for some traditional Chinese herbs, masquerading as common foods.  You’d be surprised by the number of “regular” foods and spices that are used in Chinese herbal medicine.  I had an adorable Chinese Nutrition teacher who taught me countless therapeutic uses for foods found in most American pantries.  Her recipes, though effective, made me giggle because the amount indicated for each ingredient was always “the proper amount”.  Apparently the ancient Chinese kept it loose.

The recipe I’ve used and recommended the most is a simple, 3 ingredient tea to help bolster your immune system and calm your cold symptoms.  I’ve added in what I consider to be the proper amounts, but feel free to play with it.  It goes as follow:

Cold-Kicker Tea
Ginger (root) – 1-2 tbsp
Garlic – 0.5-2 tbsp
Scallions/Green Onions – 1-2 tbsp

All fresh & finely chopped
Bring to a boil in a pan or steep in a cup to make tea

I’m rather lazy about it, and simply put everything into a cup and add boiling water, just  like I would for any old teabag.  Though the ingredients are all quite pungent, the tea is surprisingly soothing and mild.  It reminds me of a miso soup…warm-flavored and nourishing.  I promise, you will not have fiery dragon breath …unless you go bananas with the garlic.  I always re-steep the same ingredients once or twice, and then eat the chunks when I’ve finished the tea.  Mmmmm.  If chunks aren’t your thing, simply re-boil/re-steep them a time or two, to extract ALL of their medicinal properties before chucking them.

This tea can be used to prevent illness when those around you are sniffling away, or brewed in the midst of a cold to alleviate symptoms and speed recovery.  I drink it throughout the cold season, and have been known to put down 5+ cups/day.  I’d recommend at least 2 cups/day if you suspect a cold coming on.   And to further entice you into brewing up some hot garlic lovin’, here are a few of the ingredients’  healing properties.

Ginger –  Strengthens the immune system, treat colds and flu, stops cough and moves phlegm from the lungs, warms the core, soothes upset stomach and treats vomiting, and reduces toxicity from food or ingested medicine

Garlic –  Antibacterial, antimicrobial, opens the sinuses, supports immune function, eases aches and pains, and stimulates digestion

Scallions –  Reduce sinus congestion, vent rashes, calm the stomach, and boost immune function

If you’re experiencing a sore throat, make sure to add in a warm salt water gargle every few hours.  This will break up the mucous that’s clinging to the back of your throat, and soothe the ache naturally.

And don’t forget that acupuncture has been proven invaluable when tackling cold and flu symptoms.  Getting a treatment at the first sign of a cold will often ward off the bug entirely, and acupuncture during a cold or flu will stimulate your body’s natural healing response and quell your symptoms.


Cold and Flu Season 2010: Are you ready for the onslaught?

by Dr. Greg Eckel

Nature Cures Clinic physician

Well it’s that time of year again.  The marketing machine rolls on with the public health campaign that says the only protection you have against the deadly flu is to get your flu shot. We have been reporting on this since the avian flu scare of 2005 (see podcast here).  1108486420_dccf9d415d

We recently just produced a new flu vodcast/ podcast.  Dr. Nigh and I really try to have fun while (hopefully) giving you some sane (and entertaining) commentary on the current climate of information.

A few years ago, we were asked to write up what you can do for viral illness for the state of Oregon.  We wrote this while working with the Alliance Working for Antibiotic Resistance Education (AWARE), a group working towards educating the public and doctors about improper antibiotic prescriptions and how they lead to antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria.  There is pressure at doctor’s offices to do something when their patients are sick.  The doctors in general will write a prescription for antibiotics, even though the majority of cases are viral in nature.  This improper prescribing of antibiotics in turn leads to the creation of super bugs, that are resistant to antibiotics.  The current medical system has very little to offer patients with viral illnesses.

The Centers of Disease Control, in the name of public health, has their 1,2, 3 list of what to do to increase your odds of not getting the flu this year:
1) Get a flu shot.
2) Stay away from those that are sick, wash your hands often.
3) Take anti-virals if you get the flu.

As far as public policy, this is lacking considerably.  Here I will once again reference our position paper linked above as another view of what you can do to increase your immune system’s vitality.

Let’s look at the research.  The conservative group the Cochrane Review, a consortium of scientists around the globe has done a great job in collecting the data on the effectiveness of the flu vaccine.  If we were to believe the propaganda machine of the mainstream media, you’d experience a 100% effective rate against getting the flu.  It is repeated by most of the medical societies so much so it must be true.  On review of the literature, we find, “Authors’ conclusions influenza vaccines have a modest effect in reducing influenza symptoms and working days lost. There is no evidence that they affect complications, such as pneumonia, or transmission.
This review includes 15 out of 36 trials funded by industry (four had no funding declaration). An earlier systematic review of 274 influenza vaccine studies published up to 2007 found industry funded studies were published in more prestigious journals and cited more than other studies independently from methodological quality and size. Studies funded from public sources were significantly less likely to report conclusions favorable to the vaccines. The review showed that reliable evidence on influenza vaccines is thin but there is evidence of widespread manipulation of conclusions and spurious notoriety of the studies. The content and conclusions of this review should be interpreted in light of this finding.”

Last year during the swine flu (H1N1) hysteria, I got into several debates with conventional doctors, who continually referred to websites of their professional organizations, saying they were supporting the flu vaccine.  I kept asking for the research to support their conclusions. In reality, the data is very slim and suspect, as the Cochrane review suggests.

The second recommendation is actually not bad; washing your hands often is a very good hygienic practice.  I like to have our patients focus more on their own terrain, rather than being paranoid of others’ illnesses.  But I do agree with the CDC recommendation number 2.

Let’s look at the third recommendation.  Take anti-virals if you get sick.  This seems to be more of a sanctioned ad for the pharmaceutical industry.  The research shows these anti-virals produce at best one day less of illness.  This is hardly enough for a national public health policy.  (Here is the citation that goes with this information: Antiviral medications are adjunctive agents for the prevention of influenza. They also are used early in the course of uncomplicated influenza infection to reduce the duration of illness by approximately 1 day. 12 12. Gubareva LV, Kaiser L, Hayden FG. Influenza virus neuraminidase inhibitors. Lancet. 2000;355:827-835. )

We have talked a lot through the years about the issue of terrain versus the bug.  Unfortunately, Louis Pasteur won the debate on germ theory and we are currently stuck with the outlook that the bug is the issue.  His contemporary at the time was Beauchamp, who argues that we are all exposed to the bug, why do only some of us get sick.  His point was that is the terrain that matters.

In practice of course it is both of these theories.  Our public policy only views the bug, holistically we consider both of them.  In recent times there is more and more research to support Vitamin D’s usefulness for immune system response.  We encourage all of our patients to have their vitamin D level checked at least once per year.  This gives you an opportunity to make sure you are in the ideal range for vitamin D’s effectiveness.

If you are interested in optimizing your immune system this cold and flu season, please call the office and schedule an appointment.  For more information be sure to watch or listen to our current vod/podcast here.

Here’s to a healthy and happy fall!

In health and sanity,  Dr. Eckel

photo courtesy: Trumanlo

The Naturopathic Approach to Colds and Flu Podcast

Listen to: The Naturopathic Approach to Colds and Flu Podcast

In this podcast, Dr. Eckel and Dr. Nigh focus on issues surrounding the cold and flu season.  Should you be running to your doctor to get a prescription that will only suppress your symptoms, or should you not do anything at all?  They will answer questions like these, as well as explain to you what the naturopathic approach to treating these illnesses would look like, citing specific ways you can implement them at home.

Winter Health Tips

It’s been just about a year since a major winter storm hit the Northwest. While we’re crossing our fingers that we won’t be tromping through a foot and a half of snow this holiday season, it’s better to be prepared for the worst. You can stave off a number of weather-related illnesses and conditions with a bit of prevention.

Your overall health is our utmost concern, and as always, we recommend taking steps throughout the season to boost your immunity to colds, flu, and other seasonal disorders. Our articles on the importance of vitamin D and naturopathic prevention of swine flu are a good place to start.

On top of that, there are many things you can do to foster a healthy home environment. Continue reading “Winter Health Tips”

Herbs and Immunity

There are lots of ways to support a healthy immune system through the winter months. One easy way is through the daily intake of herbs known as tonics. Tonics increase the tone and vitality of skin, organs and body systems. By increasing the vitality of the immune system you are able to defend off bacterial and viral invaders at a more efficient rate enabling you to either arrest a cold/flu or shorten its duration drastically.

Below are 2 recipes for you to enjoy:

There are lots of ways to support a healthy immune system through the winter months. One easy way is through the daily intake of herbs known as tonics. Tonics increase the tone and vitality of skin, organs and body systems. By increasing the vitality of the immune system you are able to defend off bacterial and viral invaders at a more efficient rate enabling you to either arrest a cold/flu or shorten its duration drastically.

Below are 2 recipes for you to enjoy: Continue reading “Herbs and Immunity”

Naturopathic Prevention of Swine Flu

The mainstream media and most conventional physicians would have you believe that the only way to prevent swine flu is by getting a shot. Nonsense! Healthy immune systems have been protecting people from infectious diseases for many thousands of years. Our immune systems didn’t lose this ability in the last few decades, but the key is to have a healthy immune system. Continue reading “Naturopathic Prevention of Swine Flu”

Swine Flu Vaccination Information

There is one prominent fact about the current H1N1 vaccinations being promoted in the media and by virtually all conventional physicians: there is absolutely no evidence that the vaccination will prevent swine flu. Despite all the media and all the hype about this vaccination, there still is not one study that shows this vaccination will prevent even a single case of swine flu.

We believe every physician should inform their patients about this fact and let patients make informed decisions accordingly.

The decision to get – or not to get – a vaccination against the H1N1 virus rests with every individual. The decision should only be made on the basis of information, not on the basis of fear or pressure exerted by a physician. It is the responsibility of physicians to educate patients about health, disease and risks. It is the responsibility of patients to ask question, assess information, and make decisions based on that information. Continue reading “Swine Flu Vaccination Information”

Vitamin D – We Can’t Say It Enough

We’ve told you before how sufficient levels of Vitamin D can help reduce your risk of many chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, depression and diabetes.

While these are all very serious conditions that deserve your attention, there’s another ailment that’s dominating the headlines right now. You’ve heard it blasted in big letters — the FLU. And guess what? Study after study is showing that Vitamin D can help you battle that cold-weather illness too. Continue reading “Vitamin D – We Can’t Say It Enough”

The Naturopathic Approach to the Swine Flu,H1N1 Virus

Listen to  The Naturopathic Approach to the Swine Flu and H1N1 Virus Podcast

Dr. Eckel and Dr. Nigh explain the dangers of allowing you to be injected with a live virus that has only been tested on monkeys.  Instead of taking this risk, they will educate you on some naturopathic and alternative approaches that will protect your body from getting viral infections, needles not included.  They’ll give you tips about nutrition and specific antiviral supplements that should be part of your diet to keep your body strong and decrease your susceptibility to these illnesses.

Confused about the flu hype? Boost your immunity!

Did you get it yet? You’ll probably be hearing a lot of people talking about the flu vaccine, if you haven’t heard it already. This year with all of the talk of the H1N1 flu and the annual push for vaccination for the seasonal flu, the marketing blitz is on. These are two different issues and we’ll separate them out. There are plenty of things you can do to increase your immune system’s effectiveness. And if you do happen to build your immune system (by getting the flu) there are ways we can help get you through the illness. Continue reading “Confused about the flu hype? Boost your immunity!”

The Naturopathic Approach to the Swine Flu

Listen to the Swine Flu Podcast

In this podcast, Dr. Eckel and Dr. Nigh share with you their thoughts on the swine flu.  Are your chances of dying from the Swine flu any higher than the regular seasonal flu?  As naturopathic doctors, they believe that the public should not be put into a state of fear, but that each person should be encouraged to put their body in a state of preparation to fight off infections like the swine flu.  They will give share with you some information on how to boost your immune system, as well as common sense preventative measures that will protect your body from these viruses.

Respiratory Infections in Children

Children’s cough/cold medicine has been shown to be more dangerous than helpful. But a recent study suggests that there are other kinds of therapies that will benefit kids with colds.

A recent study in the Journal of Pediatrics found that school-aged children supplemented with fish oil experienced upper respiratory infections with less frequency. In addition, those who did get a cold had it for a shorter length of time when compared to kids not receiving the fish oil supplementation.

The general thought within the medical community is that, if there is no conventional therapy for a given problem, then there is no useful therapy. This is just one more example of a natural therapy that not only reduces illnesses in children, but will enhance their health overall.

Do we think that pediatricians across the country are going to start recommending fish oil supplements to children to prevent colds?

Children and the Flu Vaccination

The CDC’s position on vaccinating children is straight-forward: all children ages 6 months to adult should get a vaccination every year.

Which is just great, except for the fact that there is no evidence vaccinating children prevents hospital visits or reduces trips to physicians. As if to add insult to injury, according to the CDC, “the majority of influenza vaccines distributed in the United States currently contain thimerosal [mercury] as a preservative.”

Those looking for options that might actually reduce the risk of influenza in their children and themselves might want to contact their nearest naturopathic physician.