Most people contract one or more colds every
year. A cold is caused by viruses that infect
cells of the upper respiratory tract. Since there
are over 200 different species and strains of these viruses,
a cold caused by one virus does not protect a person from
catching a cold cause by a different one. This explains why
colds can occur one after another or several times a year. An
acute sore throat, on the other hand can be caused by a viral
or bacterial infection. If your sore throat gets worse no matter
what you do, it’s probably bacterial and may require a trip to
the doctor for an antibiotic. The well-known symptoms of a
cold include stuffy nose, watery eyes, low fever, aching, and
possibly a sore throat.
Conventional medical treatment for a cold generally
involves rest, aspirin, decongestants, and drinking a lot of
fluids. Conventional medical treatment for a sore throat
also involves rest, aspirin, lots of fluids, and sometimes
antibiotics. An integrative approach may also include
supplementation with vitamin C, zinc lozenges, Echinacea,
vitamin A, and a homeopathic remedy for colds.
Since the late, great Nobel Laureate, Linus Pauling first
discussed that megadoses of vitamin C might be an effective
treatment for the common cold, the medical world has
published study after study attempting to prove or disprove
Pauling’s claim. In some cases, the studies were flawed since
the amounts of vitamin C used were hardly megadoses, and
were not sufficient to elicit a response.
Placebo-controlled studies have shown that vitamin
C supplementation decreases the duration and severity of
common cold infections. However, the magnitude of the
benefit has substantially varied, hampering conclusions
about the clinical significance of the vitamin. In one published
review, 23 studies with regular vitamin C supplementation
were analyzed to find out factors that may explain some
part of the variation in the results. It was found that on
an average, vitamin C produces greater benefit for children
than for adults. Perhaps of greatest significance, the dose
also affects the magnitude of the benefit, there being
on average greater benefit from at least 2000 mg daily
compared to 1000 mg daily. For example, in five studies
with adults administered 1000 mg daily of vitamin C, the
median decrease in cold duration was only six percent,
whereas in two studies with children administered 2000
mg daily, the median decrease was four times higher, 26
percent. The studies analyzed in this review used regular
vitamin C supplementation. The authors of the review,
however, noted that, “it is conceivable that therapeutic
supplementation starting early at the onset of the cold
episode could produce comparable benefits.”1
In fact, this is exactly what took place in a recent study
involving 252 adult subjects with a cold or flu who were
treated with hourly doses of 1000 mg of vitamin C for the
first six hours, and then three times daily thereafter. A control
group of 463 subjects were treated with pain relievers and
decongestants. The results were that overall reported flu and
cold symptoms in the vitamin C group decreased 85 percent
compared with the control group after the administration
of megadose Vitamin C. The researchers in this study
concluded: “Vitamin C in megadoses administered before or
after the appearance of cold and flu symptoms relieved and
prevented the symptoms in the test population compared
with the control group.”2
I’ve also found effective results with the common cold
when supplementing with higher doses of vitamin C. I
recommend 1000–2000 mg every two hours (reduce dose if
experiencing loose bowels).
Zinc’s role in immune function is well established.3 The use
of zinc in a lozenge form for the treatment of the common
cold is also gaining validity. In one randomized, double-blind,
placebo-controlled clinical trial, the treatment of the
common cold with zinc lozenges resulted in a significant
reduction in duration of symptoms of the cold. The zinc
group had significantly fewer days with coughing, headache,
hoarseness, nasal congestion, nasal drainage, and sore
throat. Cold symptoms were over in 4.4 days in the zinc
group compared with 7.6 days in the placebo group.4
Echinacea is an immune stimulant/supporter, and is
excellent in the prevention and treatment of colds and
influenza. Research suggests that Echinacea supports
the immune system by activating white blood cells
(lymphocytes and macrophages).5 In addition, Echinacea
appears to increase the production of interferon, which
is important to the immune response of viral infections.6
In any case, a number of double-blind, clinical studies
have confirmed Echinacea's effectiveness in treating
colds and flu.7,8,9,10,11 However, some research suggests
that Echinacea may be more effective if used at the onset
of these conditions.12,13
In addition, the results of a published study
involving 238 subjects confirmed that Echinacea was
safe and effective in producing a rapid improvement
of cold symptoms. In the subgroup of patients who
started therapy at an early phase of their cold, the
effectiveness of Echinacea was most prominent.14 In
a similar study, 246 subjects with a cold were treated
with Echinacea preparations or a placebo. Those treated
with the Echinacea preparations experienced a reduction
of symptoms, significantly more effective than the
placebo. The researchers concluded that the Echinacea
preparations, "represent a low-risk and effective
alternative to the standard symptomatic medicines in
the acute treatment of common cold." 15
Homeopathic Remedy For Colds
In one clinical study, 170 soldiers suffering from the
common cold were treated with either a combination
homeopathic preparation, or aspirin. On the 4th and
10th treatment days, both the homeopathic remedy
and the aspirin were found to possess comparative
effectiveness in the treatment of the common cold.16
Another study involving 53 outpatients suffering from
common cold found similar results.17
Vitamin A's role in maintaining healthy epithelial tissue
helps to fight infection by preventing the invasion of
bacteria or viruses. In addition, children with even mild
vitamin A deficiency develop respiratory infections and
diarrhea at two and three times the rate of children with
normal vitamin A status.18
- Hemila H, Med Hypotheses (1999) 52(2):171–8.
- Gorton HC, Jarvis K, J Manipulative Physiol Ther (1999) 22(8):530–3.
- Whitney E, Cataldo C, Rolfes S, "Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition," Fifth Edition (1998) West/Wadsworth, Belmont, California, p.463–4.
- Mossad SB, et al, Ann Intern Med (1996) 125(2):81–8.
- See DM, Broumand N, Sahl L, Tilles JG. In vitro effects of echinacea and ginseng on natural killer and antibody-dependent cell cytotoxicity in healthy subjects and chronic fatigue syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome patients. Immunpharmacol 1997;35:229–35.
- Leuttig B, Steinmuller C, Gifford GE, et al. Macrophage activation by the polysaccharide arabinogalactan isolated from plant cell cultures of Echinacea purpurea. J Natl Cancer Inst 1989;81:669–75.
- Melchart D, Linde K, Worku F, et al. Immunomodulation with Echinacea—a systematic review of controlled clinical trials. Phytomedicine 1994;1:245–54.
- Dorn M, Knick E, Lewith G. Placebo-controlled, double-blind study of Echinacea pallida redix in upper respiratory tract infections. Comp Ther Med 1997;5:40–2.
- Hoheisel O, Sandberg M, Bertram S, et al. Echinacea shortens the course of the common cold: a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Eur J Clin Res 1997;9:261–8.
- Braunig B, Dorn M, Knick E. Echinacea purpurea root for strengthening the immune response to flu-like infections. Zeitschrift Phytotherapie1992;13:7–13.
- Brikenborn RM, Shah DV, Degenring FH. Echinaforce® and other Echinacea fresh plant preparations in the treatment of the common cold. A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial. Phytomedicine 1999;6:1–5.
- Melchart D, Walther E, Linde K, et al. Echinacea root extracts for the prevention of upper respiratory tract infections: A double-blind, placebocontrolled randomized trial. Arch Fam Med 1998;7:541–5.
- Grimm W, Müller HH. A randomized controlled trial of the effect of fluid extract of Echinacea purpurea on the incidence and severity of colds and respiratory tract infections. Am J Med 1999;106:138–43.
- Henneicke-von Zepelin H, et al, Curr Med Res Opin(1999) 15(3):214–27.
- Brinkeborn RM, Shah DV, Degenring FH, Phytomedicine (1999) 6(1):1–6.
- Maiwald VL, et al, Arzneimittelforschung (1988) 38(4):578-82.
- Gassinger CA, Wunstel G, Netter P, Arzneimittelforschung (1981) 31(4):732–6.
- Whitney E, Cataldo C, Rolfes S, "Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition," Fifth Edition (1998) West/Wadsworth, Belmont, California, p.