After reading the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Physician’s idiotic flu handout I decided to see what our American naturopaths had to say about flu. It’s not good. The most effective way to prevent influenza is through vaccination. Good hand hygiene probably helps. Nothing else really does, but that has never stopped quacks from making wildly bogus claims.
The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians has a page on “preparing for flu season naturally” which of course fails to mention the most effective prophylactic treatment, presumably because it’s “unnatural”. I’m not sure how they define natural, as taking supraphysiologic amounts of various vitamins is not exactly natural. But what about their claims? They don’t actually cite literature so we may have to do a little digging here.
They claim vitamin C can prevent influenza and mitigate its course. What they fail to say is that the overwhelming evidence is against any clinically significant benefit to vitamin C supplementation for respiratory infections (one study suggested that it can reduce the duration of colds by about 8%).
They recommend zinc vitamin A as being vital to immune function. This says nothing about their ability to help prevent flu. In fact, intranasal zinc can can cause irreversible damage to the sense of smell, and vitamin A can support the growth of some cancers.
Next up, Elderberry and Larch. Elderberry has some interesting in vitro studies to go with it but evidence of significant utility in people is lacking. The data on Larch for influenza is non-existent.
Echinacea has consistently failed to do a damned thing for prevention or treatment of respiratory tract infections.
There is only one proven way to prevent flu and that’s vaccination. One might argue that the webpage is about “natural” treatments, but given that there is no clear way to decide what is natural, that argument fails. Also, what’s the point of touting “natural” remedies if they don’t work? A less deceptive site would simply say, “so-called natural remedies have never been shown to do a damned thing to prevent or treat flu, so get vaccinated”. Strangely, I could not find a single page on their website with vaccine information of any kind.
That, Dear Reader, is pretty damned scary.