What is Oscillococcinum?

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by | Updated: February 21st, 2019 | Read time: 3 minutes

Body aches, chills, fever – you know the drill. Having flu-like symptoms is certainly no fun. The most you can muster is a slow crawl into bed with a bowl of chicken noodle soup and a box of tissues. While rest is going to be crucial for your recovery, there may be another way to temporarily relieve those icky feelings: Oscillococcinum.

Woman Reaches for Tissues, Wonders What is Oscillococcinum & Should She Take It? | Vitacost.com/blog

What is oscillococcinum?

The homeopathic medicine is pronounced oh-sill-oh-cox-see-num, or Oscillo for short. Its active ingredient is Anas barbariae hepatis, which translates from Latin to mean “barbary duck liver.” According to a 2015 review, Oscillococcinum is made from “a 1% solution of wild duck heart and liver extract, which is then serially diluted 200 times with water and alcohol.” It’s believed that the wild duck heart and liver may be common hosts of flu viruses.

In homeopathy, “like treats like.” However, to be safely administered, homeopathic products dilute the active ingredients until very little of the original substance remains. This is referred to as the “law of minimum dose,” which is to say the lower the dose of medicine, the greater its effect.

While they are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), homeopathic remedies go to market under looser conditions than dietary supplements. The FDA allows homeopathic remedies to be marketed without preapproval, provided they meet certain conditions. Here’s what homeopathic products must have to be sold to consumers:  

  • Must contain an active ingredient listed in the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the United States (HPUS).
  • Must have at least one condition listed on the front of the outer package. This is the condition it is said to be treating. In the case of Oscillococcinum, that would be “flu-like symptoms.”

What are the side effects of Oscillococcinum?

This patented product is non-drowsy and easy to take. As noted in the 2015 review, one patient among six different studies reported experiencing headaches from taking Oscillococcinum. Some anecdotal reviews have reported muscle pain. Otherwise, there are no known side effects. And Oscillococcinum has had no case of drug interactions.

Does Oscillococcinum really work?

This homeopathic medicine claims to work naturally with your body to temporarily relieve flu-like symptoms, such as:

  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fatigue

The 2015 review published by the Cochrane Acute Respiratory Infections Group looked at six studies of Oscillococcinum. The studies had been conducted in Russia, France and Germany with overall poor standards of reporting. The review concluded that “There was no statistically significant difference between the effects of Oscillococcinum and placebo in the prevention of influenza-like illness.”

While the review concluded no difference in prevention of flu-like symptoms, they did not dismiss the possibility of its effectiveness in treating flu-like symptoms once they have taken hold. However, more studies would be needed to come to that conclusion.

Here’s what Vitacost customers are saying in Oscillococcinum reviews:

“Oscillococcinum is a GREAT product and always works.” – Doc Kay

“There is always a box of Oscillo in my home.” – BellaMin

“I keep this product on hand at all times. I take it immediately when I feel like I may be coming down with something.” – Tutu17

“It is truly amazing how fast it works” – mom4good

“I always pop one when I get on a flight…for the ‘what if’” – vitaminsmart

While highly diluted substances are unlikely to cause any adverse side effects, there is little evidence to support the safety or effectiveness of homeopathic remedies as a whole. Be sure to speak with your health care professional before taking any homeopathic product, dietary supplement or over-the-counter medicine.