Spring Flu Treatment- Old School Style

by Tyna Moore, ND, DC

I am home sick today with what feels like the flu.  I have been having muscle aches for a few days (which I attributed to gluten exposure as that usually causes me a great deal of pain), and my workouts have been difficult to finish as I’ve felt weaker.  Last night was spent nursing a fever, joint pain and ear aches.

I am  just excited that I mounted a fever!  Back in the day when I was not so healthy and vital I couldn’t get a fever going if I tried.  Fevers are our friends, and so long as it doesn’t get too alarmingly high, I say burn, baby, burn!!

While in Naturopathic school we learned quite a bit about the history of our medicine and many of the traditional treatments that are still employed today.  Common sense honestly, the kind of treatments that my great grandparents (and perhaps my grandparents) would have used regularly.  Something that resonated with me while in school was that many of the old school ND’s (Naturopathic Doctors) utilized manual manipulation of the spine whenever anyone was ill.  This makes sense to me because as a Chiropractor I know the power of a good adjustment.  More on that later.

I loved learning of these old treatments because they made sense to me.  Back in the day, whenever a patient came down with the flu the local ND would utilize a few treatments, in the home setting usually, that often led to a quick resolution for the patient.  No drugs, just good old fashioned common sense.  This is still true today.  When it comes to enhancing the immune system, we’ve got it covered.

During the 1918 Spanish Flu that killed as many as 50-100 million people worldwide, Naturopaths had great treatment successes “losses were less than 1% of the cases treated.”1

Recall too that most MD’s practiced this way before there were patented drugs to use.  The tools of the day were common sense, herbs and their hands!


Old School Flu Treatment:

1) Fast the Patient– Remember “feed a cold, starve a fever”?  This stems from the idea that the GI (gastrointestinal) tract does not need the added burden of having to digest food when the body is being attacked by a virus.  Meaning, your blood has better things to do when you’re under siege from a virus.  Prominent Naturopaths of the day counseled to fast all patients, absolutely, or risk the patient’s death.  What does this mean today?  The same thing!  I allow patients a light bone broth or Greens Juice (see below for my recipe).  No refined carbohydrates or sugars, they make your white blood cells “drunk” for hours.

Bone Broth

2) Hydrotherapy– This can be done in a variety of ways, however my version is simple.  Alternating Hot/Cold to tolerance of the patient.  My favorite way to accomplish this is to go to a dry sauna at the gym.  5-10 min in the sauna (don’t overdo it if you’re ill), then a cold rinse in the adjacent shower.  You do not have to cold rinse your entire body, perhaps just arms and legs and a splash on the face. Return to the sauna.  Repeat the cold splash.  Do this 3-4 times, always ending with cold.  It will increase your vitality and get your juices flowing!  (This process can be done with a hot shower followed by a cold spritz at the end, repeated several times, ending in cold).  Then go lay down for a bit while keeping the neck and hands/feet warm.


3)  SUN! Yes, SUN! – Sun baths were the treatment of the day.  Patients were wheeled out to sun porches and tanned.  This was a common and successful treatment for tuberculosis, and it was called Heliotherapy.  The patients that tanned the best were given the best prognosis.  My version involves a 5 minute trip to the conventional tanning bed and/or high doses of Vitamin D for a short duration  (10,000 IU of Vitamin D for a few days will not cause damage, if you plan on doing this for more than 5 days, please consult your Doctor!).  I carefully monitor my patients on heliotherapy or high dose Vit D therapy.  (Disclaimer:  I DO NOT advocate fake and baking until you’re orange.  I’m talking 1-2 short trips to a tanning bed that emits UVB to enhance Vit D production while you are acutely ill.  Always follow with high doses of antioxidants and do not make a habit of tanning!  It has been linked to skin cancer afterall)


4)  Chiropractic Treatment or Spinal Manipulation– ND’s were often trained as Chiropractors as well, and/or utilized spinal manipulation regularly.  They would make home visits to adjust the ill patient nearly daily to stimulate their vitality.  When I begin to feel any kind of illness coming on the FIRST thing I do is get a full spinal adjustment.  Head to toe, stimulate the nervous system and get lymph flowing.  I treat my patients the same way.  In an ideal world I would encourage the patient to be adjusted at least ONCE DAILY for the duration of the illness.  There are many reasons why this is a beneficial treatment, however the most logical is nervous system stimulation, joint mobility and lymph flow.  I am fortunate enough to live with a Chiropractor, so lucky me:)

Chiropractics treats more than the spine!

5)  Keep the Bowels Moving – This is paramount!  Constipation is never a good thing, particularly when you are ill and your body is trying to rid itself of the byproducts of the war going on inside.  Toxins and by products are eliminated via the bowels, skin, kidneys and lungs.  The bowels must be kept moving.  A warm water enema can be utilized for this purpose, small amounts of water delivered with a bulb should do the trick.  (BTW- your large intestine is connected to your anus, and this is where water is re-absorbed in the GI tract, so squirting small amounts of warm water up there, gently, should rehydrate a patient to some degree.  It’s an old treatment I learned from an old Chiropractor when one can’t stop vomiting and can’t hold water down.)

Bowel Movement Inducing Exercises

6)  Modulate a Fever – Note that this does not say, “squelch a fever”.  Fever is critical to healing.  It is the body’s own way of burning the buggers out of the system.  Fever, when modulated, is safe, effective and critical to healing.  When a patient can’t mount a fever, that’s when I start to worry.  A sweating, feverish patient is a sign of strong vitality.  Modulating the fever is important, and we do this with cool cloths to the forehead and nape of the neck, cool water on the wrists, etc- while keeping the rest of the patient warm.  I more often have to counsel patients on how to INDUCE a fever so they can get the healing response going-  this can be done by taking a hot bath and drinking a cup of ginger tea with a pinch of cayenne.  The sauna treatment above will often do the trick as well.

There are various other treatments that were utilized back in the day, including homeopathy, herbs and other Naturopathic treatments.  The above tips are simply my favorites that I have utilized most often with my patients.


Green Juice Drink

Greens Juice Recipe:

-Bunch of Organic Greens (spinach, kale, chard, collard greens)

-Organic Antioxidant Juice of Choice (I like Pomegranate, Blueberry, Cherry)

-Organic Apple for sweetness

-Water to desired consistency

Juice with juicer or high quality blender (I have a used Vitamix I bought for a great price, you can find them on Ebay).  Store in glass jar in refrigerator and drink throughout day.  You can add 1/2-1  scoop Whey Protein Powder to keep you strength up.


This information is not to replace your own doctors treatments and is definitely not intended as a stand alone treatment. The flu can be tricky and nasty, and moves fast.  Virulent strains can lead to secondary pneumonia infections and all kinds of more severe symptoms.  The ideas listed here are powerful adjunctive therapies meant to stimulate the immune system and the patient’s vitality, not replace your medical doctors advice. If you are suffering from an illness, it is best to consult with your local health care practitioner.

1)  Lust B. The flu again, don’t be afraid. Herald of Health and Naturopath. 1919;24(11):530.