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Health Benefits of Oscillococcinum

A Homeopathic Remedy for Flu?

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Updated July 13, 2013

What Is Oscillococcinum?

Also known as Anas barbariae hepatitis and Cordis extractum 200 c, Oscillococcinum is a homeopathic remedy used in the treatment of influenza.

Based on the theory that "like cures like," homeopathy aims to treat illness by delivering very small doses of a substance that produces symptoms characteristic of the illness being treated. According to homeopathic philosophy, these highly diluted doses can activate the body's innate self-healing mechanisms.

Oscillococcinum is made from extracts of duck heart and liver, which homeopaths believe to be reservoirs of the influenza virus. The remedy is prepared using 200 dilutions: The first mixture contains 1% of the duck extract, the second mixture contains 1% of the first mixture, the third mixture contains 1% of the second mixture, and so on until it has been diluted 200 times.

Health Benefits of Oscillococcinum:

While a small number of studies suggest that Oscillococcinum may have some beneficial effects for people with the flu, there's no evidence that the remedy can prevent flu or serve as a first-line treatment for the virus. Here's a look at several study findings:

  • In a 2007 review of seven studies on complementary medicine in treatment or prevention of the flu, researchers found "some encouraging data" for the use of Oscillococcinum. However, the review concluded that "the effectiveness of any complementary and alternative therapy for treating or preventing seasonal influenza is not established beyond reasonable doubt."
  • In a review published in 2006 - then withdrawn in 2009 - scientists sized up seven studies (including a total of 3,459 participants) and found that treatment with Oscillococcinum shortened the length of influenza illness by 0.28 days. There was no evidence that Oscillococcinum could help prevent the flu.
  • In another research review, published in 2005, investigators determined that the Oscillococcinum's popularity is not supported by scientific evidence.
  • Is Oscillococcinum Safe?

    Since they're so diluted, homeopathic remedies such as Oscillococcinum tend not to cause adverse effects. In some cases, however, patients may briefly feel worse after first beginning their homeopathic treatment.

    Despite the low risk of side effects, it's important to take caution when using Oscillococcinum in treatment of the flu. Because the flu virus can lead to complications like pneumonia (a potentially life-threatening condition), you should seek medical attention if you experience flu symptoms such as coughing, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, headache, and high fever.

    Sources:

    Guo R, Pittler MH, Ernst E. "Complementary medicine for treating or preventing influenza or influenza-like illness." Am J Med. 2007 120(11):923-929.e3.

    van der Wouden JC, Bueving HJ, Poole P. "Preventing influenza: an overview of systematic reviews." Respir Med. 2005 99(11):1341-9.

    Vickers A, Smith C. "Homoeopathic Oscillococcinum for preventing and treating influenza and influenza-like syndromes." Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009 8;(3):CD001957.

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