November 30, 2004

Unique Remedies for Flu Infections

As the flu season rolls in and the vaccine shortage continues, over-the-counter alternatives treatments are being explored by consumers. Possibilities include echinacea and zinc, garlic and Vitamin C, and a legion of other substances whose fans are many and passionate.

For flu and many other illnesses, more and more Americans want to treat themselves and do it with remedies that replace or augment conventional Western ones.

Homeopathy uses small doses of plant, animal or mineral substances to stimulate self-healing. It is based on the principle of similars a substance that can cause certain symptoms in a healthy person can cure similar symptoms in an unhealthy person.

Homeopathy is now part of the renewed interest in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Also in that category are herbal remedies, diet supplements, acupuncture, chiropractic, massage and yoga, traditional Chinese medicine, and natural therapies.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported earlier this year that 36 percent of 31,000 Americans surveyed said they had used some form of CAM in 2003.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration treats over-the-counter vitamins, minerals and herbs as foods, not drugs, and does not vouch for their efficacy or quality. If a product's claims are proved false or misleading, however, or the product is deemed unsafe, the agency can pull it from the market.