An influenza epidemic is predicted for the UK this winter.

This could overload GP surgeries with urgent appointments for treatment. If so, the challenge of dealing with a serious outbreak of flu could overwhelm the already overstretched primary care system.

Rest, fluids and paracetamol or ibuprofen are the cornerstones of treatment for flu and viral infections. Antibiotics do not work unless you develop a secondary bacterial or septic infection such as tonsillitis or ear or chest infections. In that case, you would need a decent course of antibiotics to kill the bacterial infection.

The flu virus takes its own course, while the bodys immune system tries to kill the virus particles. In the course of the illness, you are left totally drained of energy and, often, depressed.

You are most vulnerable to flu virus if you are elderly or suffer from heart disease, asthma, chronic bronchitis, diabetes, cancer, AIDS, hepatitis or are a smoker, an alcoholic or depressed. People who are fatigued or tired all the time from stress and long hours at work or suffer from depression and anxiety are also vulnerable.

All these people would be well advised to have a the flu vaccination.

We could all save ourselves a lot of misery by strengthening our immunity. Take regular short breaks to prevent stress as it builds up and eat a good healthy diet. Try not to fatigue yourself.

I strongly believe an Ayurvedic medicine with the potential to save us from getting severe flu or viral infection is chyavanprash. This powerful yet gentle restorative has been taken for centuries in India during the cold winter months, particularly by the elderly and the vulnerable. It has been my lifeline since I was a child. Research has shown it boosts the immunity by enhancing the action of killer T-lymphocyte cells in the blood and the action of the white blood cells. This is attributed to the Indian gooseberry pulp and herbs such as trifala, curcumin, tinospora cordifolia, ashwagandha, saffron and others which have a healing and strengthening action in the body.

For sore throat, coughs, blocked sinuses and body-ache, I find a mixture of long pepper, bamboo-resin cardamom and black pepper (sitopaladi) taken with honey is very effective.

Throughout the day, I drink tea made from fresh root ginger with mint, cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg. Spices contain alkaloids which have a diaphoretic (that is, they aid the skin in the elimination of toxins through perspiration) and analgesic effect on the body, helping to clear the head, relieve headaches and blocked sinuses and work as a general pick-me-up.

Put a quarter of a teaspoon of ginger, cardamom and nutmeg into a glass of hot water, add a teaspoonful of honey and a dash of fruit juice. Drink this refreshing natural medicine four times a day and see the difference: Prevention is better than cure.

Dr Milind Jani works as a conventional and
holistic GP and Dr Asmita Jani as Ayurvedic Consultant from 3 Eaton Gardens, Hove.

Call them on: 01273 777448 or email: