Oscillococcinum Information

While there is no “cure” for the flu, oscillococcinum (pronounced “o-sill-o-cox-see-num”) is reputed to shorten the length and reduce the severity of influenza symptoms. This natural, homeopathic remedy has been in use for more than 65 years and is now widely available in drugstores, health-food stores and supermarkets.

The Facts

Oscillococcinum is a homeopathic medicine; homeopathic treatments consist of extremely diluted solutions of substances that usually cause a specific condition in high doses. Oscillococcinum was discovered in 1917 and has gained popularity as an influenza treatment throughout Europe and, more recently, in the United States. It contains diluted quantities of anas barbariae, an extract of wild-duck liver and heart. The theory behind its use is that waterfowl are a natural flu-virus source; thus, in keeping with the homeopathic method, minute doses of the extract should alleviate flu symptoms.

Skepticism

In a 2008 online article, the “Los Angeles Times” called oscillococcinum’s curative effects into question, stating that more-rigorous research is needed to support the few existing clinical studies. The Cochrane Collaboration—an international group that advocates evidence-based medicine—has reviewed oscillococcinum and concluded that there is no evidence that the remedy can prevent the flu, but that it may slightly lessen the duration of the illness by approximately six hours.

The Positives

Clinical trials completed in 1998 and published in the “British Homeopathic Journal” indicate that taking oscillococcinum when you first begin to exhibit flu symptoms can help improve your symptoms within 48 hours. In a trial, 63 percent of patients exhibited a “clear improvement” within that time frame as opposed to a group that received a placebo.

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Side Effects

Because there are no active ingredients in the oscillococcinum, there is little risk for interactions or negative side effects. Boiron, the makers of Oscillo (an oscillococcinum product) state that there are no known side effects and that the product is safe for use in patients ages 2 to 102. However, if you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or considering giving a remedy to a baby, consult your physician before taking any homeopathic medicine. There are no contraindications for oscillococcinum.

Take Oscillococcinum

Optimally, you should take oscillococcinum at the first signs of flu symptoms. The earlier you begin, the more effective the treatment is. The instructions are to take one vial, allowing the medication to dissolve in your mouth, every six hours. If your symptoms persist for more than one week or become more severe, call your doctor.