At the first sign of symptoms, here's what to do (in order of importance):
· Gargle with warm water. Oddly enough, plain, warm water is superior for preventing further symptoms than mouthwashes and iodine solutions. Then take at two of the following three remedies (but if you can only get one, make it zinc):
· Zinc acetate or zinc gluconate: lozenges, sucked, not swallowed whole, every 2 hours that you are awake.
· Echinacea purpurea: juice (preferred), 20 drops every 2 hours that you are awake for the first day, then 3 times a day for 10 days.
· Vitamin C: A single dose of 2,000 mg. It’s the first dose of vitamin C that makes the difference.
Over-the-counter decongestants usually open the nasal passages by about 10%, which may be enough to relieve stuffy nose. Vapor rubs may relieve coughing slightly, but they don’t do anything for runny nose, and they irritate the skin of small children. Tylenol usually relieves fever (which is not necessarily a good thing, since your body generates fever to kill the cold virus) but doesn’t help other symptoms. Aspirin should not be given to children or teens who have viral infections, due to the danger of Reye syndrome.
These remedies help you fight a cold. Herbal teas of all descriptions just help relieve symptoms once the cold has set in.
Why zinc? Zinc stops viruses from entering cells they have not yet infected. If you suck on a zinc lozenge, it will release zinc into your saliva, and then your saliva will protect the back of your throat from infection. You may still get a cold in your nose, but it is less likely to "go down" your throat.
How do we know zinc works? A comment on three clinical studies found that taking 80 to 92 mg of zinc per day from lozenges (providing 8 to 12 mg of zinc each), beginning within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms, reduced:
· Duration of nasal discharge by 34%,
· Nasal congestion by 27%,
· Sneezing by 32%,
· Sore throat pain by 18%,
· Hoarseness by 42%,
· Cough by 46%, and
· Muscle pain by 54%, but
· Without reduction in headache or fever.
In other words, zinc lozenges don’t eliminate a cold, but they help substantially. To prevent problems with copper depletion (zinc displaces copper at receptor sites in the digestive tract), don’t use zinc lozenges for more than a week at a time.
Zinc nose sprays also protect your nasal passages from more widespread infection. A nose spray may help you get over a cold very quickly. If there is even slightest hint of pain in your nose or sinuses when you use a zinc spray, however, stop immediately, and don't use the spray again. When people have suffered loss of their sense of taste or smell after using a nose spray, invariably they ignored the warning signal of pain.
There is a cold remedy that provides zinc with vitamin C in a fizzy drink that soothes your throat as it provides needed nutrients, but it is not Alka-Seltzer. It's Redoxon Vitamin C and Zinc, made by Hoffman-La Roche. Each Vita Immune tablet contains:
• 10 milligrams of zinc
• 1000 milligrams of vitamin C
• 2333 IU of vitamin A
• 6. 5 milligrams of vitamin B 6
• 9. 6 micrograms of vitamin B12
• 400 IU of vitamin D
• 45 milligrams of vitamin E
• 400 micrograms of folic acid
• 110 micrograms of selenium
• 900 micrograms of copper
• 5 milligrams of iron
Providing the full range of nutrients that fight viral infections, Redoxon has been a tried and trusted over-the-counter colds and flu remedy since 1934. Because the vitamin C in Redoxon is a fizzy combination of ascorbic acid and sodium bicarbonate, the tablets bubble when mixed in water. They make a tingly, soothing beverage that delivers the nutrients that fight colds directly to the tissues that need them most. It’s more effective than either vitamin C or zinc alone, but it’s the sort of thing you need to have on hand at the beginning of colds and flu season.
If you can’t get Redoxon (it’s available on Amazon), chances are that you can get vitamin C. Using vitamin C reduces the severity of symptoms, but it usually doesn’t “knock out” a cold. Fizzy products like Airborne help get vitamin C directly to the nasal passages and back of the throat more effectively than vitamin C tablets. Liposomal vitamin C really won’t do anything that any other vitamin C tablet does for a cold, although it costs six times as much.
What About Herbs and Supplements for Preventing Colds?
While zinc, echinacea, and vitamin C are very useful in treating colds, other supplements are more useful for preventing colds. Unquestionably the best-documented herb for preventing colds is Eleutherococcus, also known as Siberian ginseng. This herb is not fully appreciated in the United States in part because the majority of the hundreds of research studies on its use in preventing winter illnesses were published in Russian. Siberian ginseng is not the same plant as Chinese ginseng.
Clinical trials in the old Soviet Union enlisted the entire populations of cities in Siberia to test Siberian ginseng as a preventative for colds and flu. The largest of these studies found that taking Siberian ginseng for 8–10 weeks before the beginning of the cold and flu season reduced the incidence of these diseases by more than 95 percent. As translator of the Soviet study, however, I must note that it was supervised, published, and publicized by a Soviet government agency responsible for exporting herbs. Studies conducted without such blatant commercial interest have found that Siberian ginseng stimulates the production of both B and T cells to boost immune power. The noted natural health expert Dr. Michael Murray writes that Siberian ginseng prevents colds caused by exposure to cold, allergens, and, especially, emotional stress.
Siberian ginseng has the interesting side effect of improving color vision, especially the ability to distinguish red and green. It also increases the production of testosterone in men. A number of professional athletes use Siberian ginseng to prevent colds, and all of them are completely bald. Men who have prostate problems and women who have polycystic ovarian syndrome should avoid the herb.
Another herb that has been documented to prevent colds is “Indian echinacea,” the South Asian herb andrographis. This herb was credited with saving India from the worldwide flu epidemic of 1919, and has become a popular remedy for colds in Europe. A Chilean study enlisted 107 student volunteers, all 18 years old, to participate in a 3-month trial that used a dried extract of andrographis to prevent colds. Fifty-four of the students took two 100-milligram doses daily (a very low dose), and 53 were given a placebo. All the participants in the study were examined for symptoms of colds by a physician once a week for 12 weeks. At the end of the 3-month test period, only 16 students who used andrographis had had colds, compared to 33 of the placebo-group participants. Even a very low dose of andrographis reduced the risk of catching a cold by 50 percent.
Although it is not as good for treating colds as echinacea, andrographis is known to be helpful for treating earache, sleeplessness, nasal drainage, and sore throat. If you start taking andrographis after symptoms have already begun, you will probably not get results for 3–4 days. Much higher doses, 1,000–1,200 mg daily, are required for treating colds than for preventing colds.
Some people should not take andrographis. Some components of the herb stimulate gallbladder contraction, which can cause potentially severe pain in people who have gallstones. Extremely high doses of the herb, far more than anyone is likely to take, may cause infertility in men. One study found that male lab rats given the equivalent of 100 times a normal dose in humans experienced testicular atrophy, although a follow-up study failed to confirm this side effect. There is very little scientific evidence that taking vitamin C can prevent colds. One exception may be the sniffles that athletes get after a competition. For preventing colds after physical exhaustion, taking 500–1,000 mg of vitamin C a day is sufficient. To get protective benefits, you should start taking vitamin C at least 3 weeks before your athletic event. Vitamin E (200 IU per day) taken with vitamin C increases the benefit of vitamin C.
There are many other natural products that are useful in treating colds. Bromelain, taken in doses of 500–750 mg 3 times a day between meals, helps break up sticky mucus. Do not take bromelain if you are allergic to pineapple. Fenugreek and thyme also help break up mucus.
Many people find that cat’s claw stops the symptoms of a cold. If you take cat’s claw, taking a tsp of lemon juice with the cat’s claw tincture or drinking an orange juice chaser after taking the cat’s claw capsule releases tannins that are especially useful in treating colds. A Native American remedy, osha, is helpful for relieving earache.