The Gerson Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine

Scott Gerson, M.D., Ph.D. (Ayurveda) Medical Director, Jupiter Medical Center Dept. of Integrative Medicine Division of Education and Research






Lake Mary Clinic, Gerson Ayurvedic Spa, and Panchakarma Facility: at 635 Primera Blvd. Lake Mary, Florida 32746

Jupiter Medical Center at The Calcagnini Center for Mindfulness
1210 S. Old Dixie Highway, Jupiter, Florida 33458, Suite M-117.2




 Telephone: (561) 263-MIND (6463); option 2 (407) 549-2800

Cutting Edge Information

Ayurveda and Swine Flu

2009 H1N1 (referred to as “swine flu” early on) is a new influenza virus causing illness in people. This new flu virus was first detected in people in the United States in April 2009. This virus is spreading from person-to-person worldwide, probably in much the same way that regular seasonal influenza viruses spread. As of 2009, the known strains of the virus include influenza C and the subtypes of influenza A known as H1N1, H1N2, H3N1, H3N2, and H2N3.

Swine influenza virus is common throughout pig populations worldwide. However this new virus is very different from what normally circulates in North American pigs. In fact, it has genes from flu viruses that normally circulate in pigs in Europe, pigs in Asia, bird (avian) genes and human genes. Scientists call this a "quadruple reassortment" virus. Transmission of the virus from pigs to humans is not common and does not always lead to human influenza, often resulting only in the production of antibodies in the blood. People with regular exposure to pigs are at increased risk of swine flu infection. The meat of an infected animal poses no risk of infection when properly cooked.

Influenza is quite common in pigs; the main route of transmission is through direct contact between infected and uninfected animals.

People who work with poultry and swine, especially people with intense exposures, are at increased risk of infection with influenza virus endemic in these animals, and constitute a population of human hosts in which reassortment can co-occur. Other professions at particular risk of infection are veterinarians and meat processing workers, although the risk of infection for both of these groups is lower than that of farm workers.

Like seasonal flu, certain people are at “high risk” of serious complications from H1N1. This includes people 65 years and older, children younger than five years old, pregnant women, and people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions. About 70 percent of people who have been hospitalized with this 2009 H1N1 virus have had one or more medical conditions previously recognized as placing people at “high risk” of serious seasonal flu-related complications. This includes pregnancy, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, suppressed immune systems, and kidney disease.

Main Signs and Symptoms of Swine Flu

Swine flu H1N1 virus symptoms are similar to those of influenza and of influenza-like illness in general. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, diarrhea and vomiting.

The most common cause of death is respiratory failure, other causes of death are pneumonia (leading to sepsis), high fever (leading to neurological problems), dehydration (from excessive vomiting and diarrhea) and electrolyte imbalance. Fatalities are more likely in very young children and the elderly.


If your agni (digestive fire) is normal, your vyadhiksamatva (immunity) will remain strong and thus no infection can cause great harm.

Prevention of swine influenza has three components:

  • Prevention in swine,
  • Prevention of transmission to humans,
  • Prevention of its spread among humans

Swine flu cannot be spread by pork products, since the virus is not transmitted through food but it spreads between humans through coughing or sneezing and people touching something with the virus on it and then touching their own nose or mouth.

As soon as you feel discomfort with symptoms like sneezing, coughing and any other respiratory symptoms, start to have herbal tea like Kapha tea, Cold soothe tea etc. Maintaining healthy lung capacity and immunity in general will help to combat any infections from viruses.

Common Sense "Do's"

  • Frequent washing of hands with soap and water or with alcohol-based hand sanitizers, especially after being out in public. The possibility of transmission is also reduced by disinfecting household surfaces.
  • Experts agree that hand-washing can help prevent viral infections, including ordinary influenza and the swine flu virus.
  • Influenza can spread in coughs or sneezes. Telephones and other surfaces and be transferred via the fingers to the mouth, nose or eyes.
  • Anyone with flu-like symptoms such as a sudden fever, cough or muscle aches should stay away from work or public transportation and should contact a doctor for advice.
  • One should avoid sleeping during the day hours.
  • Clean and dry clothes should be worn.
  • Try to avoid over exertion.
  • Drink a glass of water with two teaspoons of honey every day early in the morning.
  • Always have fresh meals and not leftovers, prepared using a minimum quantity of oil.
  • Include fresh fruits and vegetables in the diet
  • Always consume warm food

Common Sense "Do nots"

  • Avoid the regular use of sweets (especially chocolate), butter, cheese, paneer etc. • Avoid dairy products especially curds and butter. • Avoid foods containing preservatives, artificial flavours, colours etc.

Ayurveda Treatment

No scientific data currently (October 2009) supports the use of herbal medicines for the treatment of H1N1 "swine flu".

Based on the fundamental laws of nature, Ayurveda provides a highly sophisticated and comprehensive science of life, health and therapeutics where the concept of prevention plays a central role. Immediately after birth, there is a natural sequence of growth, ageing, and gradual atrophy of the mind-body leading ultimately to death. The weakening and fragmentation of the various parts of the human body and mind proceeds at different rates for different issues, for different individuals, for different races, But inevitably the structural and functional changes of ageing occur in all of us and make us more vulnerable to disease.

Ayurveda considers the phenomenon of ageing and gradual loss of vitality from a very different and practical perspective and proposes a solution: rasayana chikitsa or rejuvenation therapy. It is the science of maintaining the integrity and vitality of all the bodily tissues as well as the mind. Rasayana therapies optimize the rasa (i.e. essence, nutrient juice, fundamental nature) of every tissue in the body and the mind. Rasayana chiktsa is a multi-faceted approach which addresses the physical, emotional, cognitive and energetic aspects of a human being—resulting in total improvement of one’s life. These therapies develop positive health, improve mental faculties, increase stamina, and promotes immunity against disease. The effectiveness of this approach in preserving and restoring metabolic and physiologic health is supported by the simple yet eloquent and direct statement of Caraka more than three millennia ago:

Labhopayo hi sastanam rasadinam rasayanam. "The means by which one achieves excellence of rasa is known as rasayana chikitsa." (CS Ci 1/8)

There are several different classifications of rasayana and the interested reader should refer to the Sushruta Samhita and Dalhana’s commentary. One which is useful is the classification according to objective:

  • Kamya rasayana (to promote and maintain the health of the healthy)
    (a) Pranakamya (to specifically promote increased longevity)
    (b) Medhakamya (to promote mental function)
    (c) Srikamya (to promote physical beauty)
  • Naimittika rasayana (to assist in the cure of disease)
  • Ajasrika rasayana (as a daily routine to increase immunity and resistance to disease)

We will be concerned here with ajasrika rasayana (lit. meaning perpetual). There are three principle facets to this approach: medicinal natural remedies, panchakarma purification therapies, and acara or behavioral recommendations (exercise, diet, etc). Within panchakarma, nasya, vamana, and basti procedures are the most important. Due to space limitations, we will concern ourselves here with only the first of these facets, the medicinal natural remedies. Information on the other aspects are covered in existing literature or in a forthcoming publication Ayurvedic Medicine: A Guide for Clinicians).

The following natural medicines may be useful for ameliorating the symptoms of H1N1 if taken prophyllactically or if started as soon as possible after any symptoms are noted. Some of these have current research to support their use and others do not but have been used in India or other parts of the world for thousands of years for combating various flu-like illnesses and other viral infections.

Diaphoretics (herbs which increase sweating), such as the flowers of German chamomile (Matricaria recutita), Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis), yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and elder (Sambucus nigra) may help prevent flu by stimulating mild fever which has a beneficial effect on the immune system. Also, diaphoretic cooking spices include cayenne pepper (Capsicum spp.), mustard seed (Brassica nigra), ginger (Zingiber officinale), and horseradish (Cochlearia armoracia) may help in the same manner. Expectorant herbs, which thin bronchial secretions, include horehound (Marrubium vulgare), thyme (Thymus spp.), and eucalyptus leaf (Eucalyptus spp.). These are also taken as teas.

Garlic (allicin) is an effective antiviral. Best if fresh (raw) and crushed. Must be consumed within 1 hour of crushing. Dosage is initially 2 to 3 cloves per day but later reduce until no body odor occurs. No toxic effects noted. (Pubmed PMID 9049657)

Amalaki (Emblica officinalis) boosts the immune system and is an antiviral probably by blocking the enzyme neuraminadase. This effect may be partially due to its high vitamin C content. Viruses need neuraminadase to reproduce. Research shows that it may reduce the production of cytokines TNF-a and IL-6. The common dosage is 1-2 grams two times daily. (Pubmed PMID 10543583, 634178, 16169205, 12876306)

Green Tea (Camelia sinensis) is also an effective antiviral. Also the catechins in green tea decrease the production of the cytokine TNF-a and may inhibit neuraminidase.

Kalmegh (Andrographis paniculata) are another Ayurvedic flu remedy. Four studies have shown that leaves and stems of andrographis prevent or relieve both the intensity and duration of colds although H1N1 has not been specifically studied. Andrographis 500-1000 mg two times daily should be taken with food, as it may cause stomach upset. It should not be used in pregnancy.(Caceres DD, Hancke JL, Burgos RA, et al. Use of visual analogue scale measurements (VAS) to assess the effectiveness of standardized Andrographis paniculata extract SHA-10 in reducing the symptoms of common cold. A randomized double-blind-placebo study. Phytomedicine 1999;6(4): 217-223)

St Johns Wort (Hypericum perforatum) – Found to be antiviral by decreasing the production of the cytokine IL-6. Hypericum is an extract from St John's Wort. There has been research with a related virus (H5N1) in Vietnam. The dosage of the 1:5 tincture is recommended at 15-30 drops, two times daily. (Pubmed PMID 7857513, 11518071, 11362353, 7857513, 11518071)

Apple Juice - Antiviral. Fresh apple juice produced by including the pulp and skin and not heated commercial apple juice has preliminary evidence of some antiviral activity. More research is needed. Effectiveness on H1N1 is unknown. (Pubmed PMID 32832, 12452634)

Cat's Claw (Uncaria tomentosa) - Decreases the production of the cytokine TNF-a. Also boosts immune system. The number of white blood cells was significantly increased during treatment. No toxicity was noted. Active constituents can be found in the leaves, bark, vine, and roots. Water extraction from bark used. Children and pregnant women are to avoid. Has a potentially damaging effect on the DNA of rapidly proliferating cells, e.g. cancers, fetuses, growing children and should not be used in those cases.

Turmeric and Black Pepper- Decreases the production of the cytokine TNF-a. Curcumin is the yellow compound in turmeric spice. The medicinal properties of curcurnin cannot be utilised when used alone due to rapid metabolism in the liver and intestinal wall. When combined with piperine, found in black pepper, the absorption is increased with no adverse effects. Dosage is 500mg to 2 grams daily.

Astragalus root (Astragalus membranaceus) - Boosts immune system. The immunopotentiating effect of the roots has been associated with its polysaccharide fractions. One clinical study with 1,000 people having lowered immunity showed that those taking astragalus either in tablet form or as a nasal spray experienced fewer and less severe colds over a 2-month period. A recent clinical study involving one hundred and six patients with herpes simplex keratitis (HSK) showed significantly improved immune function with Astragalus. The dosage of the 1:5 tincture is recommended at 15-30 drops, two times daily. (Pubmed PMID15588652)

Once you have the flu, there are many herbs that can be used therapeutically. Demulcent herbs such as marshmallow (Althea officinalis) can reduce inflammation and irritation, and soothe mucous membranes of the throat, bronchi, and the sinuses. Expectorants such as mullein (Verbascum thapsus) and wild cherry (Prunus serotina) can be used to soothe bronchial spasm and loosen mucous secretions. Elder flower and sage (Salvia officinalis) can be used as astringents for the nose, sinuses, throat, and mouth. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is valuable as an antispasmodic, as well as for the antimicrobial and antifungal properties of its volatile oils. The polysaccharides in licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) and echinacea (Echinacea spp.) exert immunomodulating effects, and can be helpful for fighting infection. Other choices are Lomatium dissectum, propolis, and wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria), or tea made from cinnamon (Cinnamomum spp.), ginger, clove, and cardamom (Elletaria cardamomum).

For above cited references, go to and search using Pubmed ID number listed after each herb or food where provided)

Finally, the following traditional Ayurvedic preparations have been used extensively for both the prevention and symptomatic treatment of influenza and flu-like syndromes: Chywanprash, Sitopaladi churna, Yastimadhu churna, Gandhak Rasayana, Bhallatakasava, and’s own ni-Kapha tea.

There is no question that the above-mentioned natural medicines in conjunction with authentic Panchakarma procedures helps to prevent the accumulation of excess doshas in the body and will also help to prevent the most severe effects of H1N1 viral load, which is ultimately responsible for the high grade fever and other symptoms which are associated with this condition.