The Health Benefits of Oscillococcinum

A homeopathic product said to reduce flu symptom severity and duration

In This Article

Oscillococcinum is a brand name homeopathic remedy used in the treatment of influenza. Taken at the first sign of flu-like symptoms, Oscillococcinum is said to help relieve symptoms and shorten the duration of the flu. However, research to support this is limited.

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 contains 1% of the first mixture, the third contains 1% of the second mixture, and so on until it has been diluted 200 times.

Also Known As

  • Anas barbariae hepatitis
  • Cordis extractum 200 c

Health Benefits

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.

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.

A 2015 review found only two trials containing sufficient information to enable data extraction, and the risk of bias in these two trials was not clear. The evidence limited to these two studies did not find evidence supporting the preventive use of Oscillococcinum. An earlier review of seven studies including 2,265 patients found no evidence that Oscillococcinum can prevent the influenza-like syndrome.

Possible Side Effects

Since they're so diluted, homeopathic remedies such as Oscillococcinum typically do no cause adverse effects. In some cases, however, patients may briefly feel worse after first beginning their homeopathic treatment. In one case, the use of Oscillococcinum was tied to the development of angioedema secondary to an allergic reaction.

Despite the low risk of side effects, it's important to take caution when using Oscillococcinum in the 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.

Supplements haven't been tested for safety. And since they are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label. Also, keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established.

Dosage and Preparation

Oscillococcinum is packaged as individual 0.04-ounce serving sizes of quick-dissolving pellets that are to be placed under the tongue and left to dissolve.

Package instructions indicate that it should be used every six hours and no more than three times daily. The product is indicated for adults and children ages 2 and up.

For those with sensitivities or related health considerations, note that this product contains lactose and sucrose (sugar).

What to Look For

Oscillococcinum is sold over the counter and is typically found in the cold medicine section of grocery stores, pharmacies, and health food stores. It comes in a white box with yellow and blue print.

A Word From Verywell

Due to a lack of supporting research, it's too soon to recommend Oscillococcinum for the flu. If you're considering the use of homeopathy, talk with your primary care provider first. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

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Article Sources
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  1. Mathie RT, Frye J, Fisher P. Homeopathic Oscillococcinum® for preventing and treating influenza and influenza-like illness. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015;1:CD001957. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001957.pub6.

  2. Van der wouden JC, Bueving HJ, Poole P. Preventing influenza: an overview of systematic reviews. Respir Med. 2005;99(11):1341-9. doi:10.1016/j.rmed.2005.07.001.

  3. Azmi Y, Rao M, Verma I, Agrawal A. Oscillococcinum leading to angioedema, a rare adverse event. BMJ Case Rep. 2015;2015. doi:10.1136/bcr-2015-210410.

  4. Prasso JE, Deng JC. Postviral complications: bacterial pneumonia. Clin Chest Med. 2017;38(1):127-138. doi:10.1016/j.ccm.2016.11.006. 

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