Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Natural Remedies for the Common Cold

Natural cold remedies have been around for centuries. According to the The Berkley Wellness Newsletter, plants that have not been used at some time in hope of combating the common cold are indeed rare. The Chinese have been treating illnesses with an assortment of herbal remedy concoctions for centuries.

Does anything work? While there is still no proven cure for the common cold, several natural remedies have now been studied and show some promise for reducing the severity of symptoms and shortening the length of your illness.

Vitamin C: Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is the popular water soluble vitamin that is though to help boost the immune system and possibly speed recovery from a cold. The most famous Vitamin C advocate was Linus Pauling, who in late 1960s began recommending 500
to 1,000 mg per hour for several hours at the first sign of cold symptoms. Since that time, Vitamin C and the prevention of colds and reduction of symptoms has been thoroughly investigated. Other than a hint that colds are slightly less severe, the research on supplementation with varying amounts of Vitamin C does not support original claims. Once and for all, there is no overwhelming evidence that Vitamin C can prevent or cure colds as was once widely believed.

Andrographis: From plants grown in India and China, some studies have confirmed that 60 mg per day of andrographis can stimulate the production of infection fighting white blood cells and reduce the severity of cold symptoms.

Garlic: Garlic has been used for thousands of years and is well known for its immune system boosting ability and antiviral properties. There is some evidence that garlic supplementation with allicin offers some level of protection and reduction in the severity of colds. Allicin is a bacteria and fungus fighting compound produced when garlic is crushed or chopped. It is not very stable so degrades quickly when cooked.

Zinc Lozenges: Some studies have shown that zinc glutonate or zinc acetate lozenges can reduce the average duration of cold symptoms by as much as 50%, while others found no benefit. Zinc is an essential mineral found naturally in foods such as oysters, liver, meat, eggs, and whole grains. It is thought that zinc may interfere with reproduction of the cold virus or keeps it from entering cells. The effectiveness of zinc supplementation may be determined by the potential for zinc absorption, or ZIA, and bioavailability. Certain high fiber foods can interfere with the absorption of zinc.

Echinacea: Echinacea was first used by Native Americans for things like insect and snake bites. Today, this herb is a popular remedy for fighting colds and flu symptoms, especially in Germany. So far, the studies on this herb offer mixed results at best, and most clinical researchers remain unconvinced that it works.

Propolis: Propolis is a substance used by bees to construct their hives that help block out bacteria and viruses. It contains amino acids, vitamins, and minerals with antioxidant properties. A small number of studies have found that propolis extract can reduce severity of cold symptoms in humans.

Hydrogen peroxide: Dr. Joseph Mercola, author of Total Health Program, recommends a few drops of 3% hydrogen peroxide in each ear within 12-14 hours of the onset of cold or flu symptoms. This one was introduced in Germany in the 1930s, and while the internet is full of testimonials, I could not find any supporting clinical studies.

One problem associated with using natural remedies may be related to purity. ConsumerLab, an independent company that routinely tests over the counter products not evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, has reported significant variance from the labels in many of these products including echinacea, zinc, and garlic. Natural remedies derived from plants also have the potential to be contaminated.

Remember, antibiotics will not work against a virus. If you decide on a natural remedy, the sooner you start taking it after the onset of symptoms, the more likely it is going to work.

C) 2007 Dave Elger all rights reserved

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