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Oscillococcinum

What is it?

Oscillococcinum is a brand name homeopathic product manufactured by Boiron. Similar homeopathic products are found in other brands.

Homeopathic products are extreme dilutions of some active ingredient. They are often so diluted that they don't contain any active medicine. Homeopathic products are permitted for sale in the U.S. due to legislation passed in 1938 sponsored by a homeopathic physician who was also a senator. The law still requires that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allow the sale of products listed in the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the United States. However, homeopathic preparations are not held to the same safety and effectiveness standards as conventional medicines.

Oscillococcinum is used for symptoms of influenza infections ("the flu") and H1N1 (swine) flu.

How effective is it?

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

The effectiveness ratings for OSCILLOCOCCINUM are as follows:

Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...

  • Flu (influenza) and H1N1 (swine) flu. There is no reliable evidence that taking oscillococcinum can prevent the flu. However, in people with flu symptoms, there is some evidence that oscillococcinum might help people get over the flu faster, but only by 6 or 7 hours. This may not be of much importance. The reliability of this finding is also questionable due to flaws in the study design. More evidence is needed to rate oscillococcinum for this use.

How does it work?

Oscillococcinum is a homeopathic product. Homeopathy is a system of medicine established in the 19th century by a German physician named Samuel Hahnemann. Its basic principles are that "like treats like" and "potentiation through dilution." For example, in homeopathy, influenza would be treated with an extreme dilution of a substance that normally causes influenza when taken in high doses.

A French physician discovered oscillococcinum while investigating the Spanish flu in 1917. But he was mistaken that his "oscillococci" were the cause of the flu.

Practitioners of homeopathy believe that more dilute preparations are more potent. Many homeopathic preparations are so diluted that they contain little or no active ingredient. Therefore, most homeopathic products are not expected to act like drugs, or have drug interactions or other harmful effects. Any beneficial effects are controversial and cannot be explained by current scientific methods.

Dilutions of 1 to 10 are designated by an "X." So a 1X dilution = 1:10 or 1 part of an active ingredient in 10 parts of water; 3X = 1:1000; 6X = 1:1,000,000. Dilutions of 1 to 100 are designated by a "C." So a 1C dilution = 1:100; 3C = 1:1,000,000. Dilutions of 24X or 12C or more contain zero molecules of the original active ingredient. Oscillococcinum is diluted to 200C.

Are there safety concerns?

Oscillococcinum seems to be safe. This is a homeopathic preparation. This means that it does not contain any active ingredient. Most experts believe that it will have no beneficial effect and also no negative side effects.

Special precautions & warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: This product has not been studied in women who are pregnant or breast-feeding. However, it is a homeopathic product and contains no measurable amount of active ingredient. Therefore this product is not expected to cause any beneficial or harmful effect.

Are there interactions with medications?

It is not known if this product interacts with any medicines.

Before taking this product, talk with your health professional if you take any medications.

Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?

There are no known interactions with herbs and supplements.

Are there interactions with foods?

There are no known interactions with foods.

What dose is used?

The appropriate dose of oscillococcinum depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for oscillococcinum. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

Other names

Anas barbaria, Anas Barbariae, Anas moschata, Avian Heart and Liver, Avian Liver Extract, Cairina moschata, Canard de Barbarie, Duck Liver Extract, Extrait de Foie de Canard, Muscovy Duck, Oscillo.

Methodology

To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.

References

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  2. Nollevaux, M. A. Clinical study of Mucococcinum 200K as a preventative treatment against flu: a double blind trial versus placebo [Klinische studie van Mucococcinum 200K als preventieve behandeling van griepachtige aandoeningen: een dubbelblinde test tegenover placebo]. 1990;
  3. Casanova, P. Homeopathy, flu syndrome and double blinding [Homeopathie, syndrome grippal et double insu]. Tonus 1984;:26.
  4. Casanova, P. and Gerard, R. Results of three years of randomised, multicentre studies on Oscillococcinum/placebo [Bilan de 3 annees d'etudes randomisees multicentriques Oscillococcinum/placebo]. 1992;
  5. Papp, R., Schuback, G., Beck, E., Burkard G., and Lehrl S. Oscillococcinum in patients with influenza-like syndromes: a placebo-controlled double-blind evaluation. British Homoeopathic Journal 1998;87:69-76.
  6. Vickers, A. and Smith, C. WITHDRAWN: Homoeopathic Oscillococcinum for preventing and treating influenza and influenza-like syndromes. Cochrane.Database.Syst.Rev. 2009;:CD001957. View abstract.
  7. Vickers, A. J. and Smith, C. Homoeopathic Oscillococcinum for preventing and treating influenza and influenza-like syndromes. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2004;:CD001957. View abstract.
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  13. Papp R, Schuback G, Beck E, et al. Oscillococcinum in patients with influenza-like syndromes: a placebo-controlled double-blind evaluation. British Homoeopathic Journal 1998;87:69-76.
  14. Attena F, Toscano G, Agozzino E, Del Giudice Net al. A randomized trial in the prevention of influenza-like syndromes by homeopathic management. Rev Epidemiol Sante Publique 1995;43:380-2. View abstract.
  15. Linde K, Hondras M, Vickers A, et al. Systematic reviews of complementary therapies - an annotated bibliography. Part 3: homeopathy. BMC Complement Altern Med 2001;1:4. View abstract.
  16. Vickers AJ, Smith C. Homoeopathic Oscillococcinum for preventing and treating influenza and influenza-like syndromes. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2006;:CD001957. View abstract.
  17. Neinhuys JW. The True Story of Oscillococcinum. HomeoWatch 2003. http://www.homeowatch.org/history/oscillo.html (Accessed 21 April 2004).
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  19. Jaber R. Respiratory and allergic diseases: from upper respiratory tract infections to asthma. Prim Care 2002;29:231-61. View abstract.
Last reviewed - 02/16/2015