A good deal of anecdotal evidence supports homeopathy’s efficacy in treating infectious diseases, particularly during historic epidemics such as cholera in the mid-19th century and the flu epidemic of 1918. “Conventional medicine attacks the microbe, but eventually the microbe adapts, so the drug has only short-term benefits,” explains Ullman. “That’s what we’re seeing with antibiotics.” In contrast, he says, homeopathy directly stimulates and strengthens the body’s defense.

As with nearly all homeopathic remedies, more and better-designed clinical studies are needed. A handful of placebo-controlled, double-blind studies have shown the proprietary remedy Oscillococcinum to effectively treat influenza. In one clinical trial, 17 percent of patients given Oscillococcinum recovered from the flu within 48 hours, compared to 10 percent with the placebo group. Made from an extract of duck heart and liver, where the influenza virus grows, the remedy is said to work best when taken at the first sign of flu-like symptoms such as headache, body aches, chills, fever, and feeling run-down.