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More Cold-Fighting Strategies
• Exercise boosts immune function. University of Washington researchers enrolled 115
women in weekly 45-minute stretching sessions or 45 minutes of moderate exercise five
days a week. After 12 months, the exercisers contracted significantly fewer colds than
the stretchers did.
• Manage stress. Ever catch a cold studying for finals? Blame stress. Carnegie Mellon
researchers gauged stress levels in 400 volunteers, then subjected their noses to live
cold viruses. As the volunteers’ stress increased, so did their likelihood of catching the
cold. Stress impairs immune function. Effective ways to reduce it include meditation,
music, yoga and other moderate exercise.
• Socialize. Colds spread from person to person, so you’d think social butterflies would
catch the most colds. Actually, as social connections increase, risk of colds decreases.
That’s what the Carnegie Mellon group discovered in a study of 334 volunteers who
completed surveys of social ties before exposure to cold virus. Social connections
boost immune function. Apparently, the benefit gained from socializing more than
compensates for the risk of spending time around cold sufferers.
• Make love. Researchers at Wilkes-Barre University in Pennsylvania surveyed 112
college students about their sexual frequency, then analyzed their saliva for
immunoglobulin A (IgA), one of the body’s first defenses against colds. Those who
reported sex once or twice a week had the highest IgA levels.
Treating Colds Herbally
If all your prevention measures fail—and they sometimes do—you still can take steps to
lessen the cold’s impact.
• Echinacea. Some studies show no treatment benefit, but most support the use of
echinacea. University of Wisconsin researchers analyzed eight studies of echinacea for
treating colds. Every one showed that compared with untreated cold sufferers, those
taking the herb had shorter, less severe colds. The University of Connecticut analysis of
14 studies, mentioned earlier, showed that in addition to preventing colds, echinacea
reduces cold duration by 1.4 days.
• Ginseng. The University of Connecticut study showed that ginseng cut severity of cold
symptoms in half.
Green tea. In the University of Florida study, mentioned earlier, green tea significantly
reduced the duration of colds.
• Andrographis (Andrographis paniculata). This traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic
medicine has recently become a popular cold treatment. At the University of Chile in
Santiago, researchers gave 158 adults coming down with colds either a placebo or
andrographis (1,200 mg a day). The andrographis group reported faster relief of all
symptoms, with no side effects. British researchers analyzed seven studies of
andrographis for colds. They found significant benefit. Recommended dose: 400 mg
three times a day.
• South African geranium (Pelargonium sidoides). Ukrainian scientists gave 103 adult
cold sufferers a placebo or pelargonium (30 drops three times a day). After 10 days, 31
percent of the placebo group was cured. In the pelargonium group, the figure was 79
percent. This herb also treats the bronchitis that may develop at the tail end of a cold.
Recommended dose: 30 drops three times a day.
• Slippery elm (Ulmus rubra) and licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra). For cold-related sore
throat, these herbs provide remarkable relief. University of Wisconsin researchers gave
60 sore throat sufferers a placebo or Throat Coat, a tea (from Traditional Medicinals)
containing slippery elm bark and licorice root. The tea provided significantly greater
• Ashwaganda, eleuthero, maitake, reishi and shiitake. While no studies have
investigated these herbs as cold treatments, their immune-enhancing effects against
viral infections suggest they may help.
Other Natural Treatments
• Hot drinks. Grandma was right when she said to drink hot liquids. Cold viruses
reproduce best at temperatures below normal body temperature. Any hot drink warms
the throat, impairing viral replication. Hot liquids also help soothe a sore throat and
• Chicken—or vegetable—soup. For centuries, chicken soup has been used to treat
colds. Florida researchers showed that it does, indeed, relieve nasal congestion better
than plain hot water. In a laboratory study, University of Nebraska researchers showed
that chicken soup significantly reduced throat-cell inflammation. However, the Nebraska
group’s soup worked even before the chicken was added, when it was simply onion- and
garlic-rich vegetable soup. Many studies have shown that vegetables, notably onions,
have anti-inflammatory action.
• Take vitamin C. The analysis, mentioned earlier, showing that vitamin C provides no
preventive benefit for the general population also showed that it offers consistent,
modest benefit as a cold treatment—14 percent shorter colds in children, and 8 percent
in adults. Again, this analysis was based on studies using 200 mg a day. Better results
have been observed in studies using larger doses, for example a University of Helsinki
report showing that 2,000 mg a day reduces cold duration 26 percent.
• Zinc lozenges. A dozen studies have tested zinc lozenges against colds. Most have
shown that the mineral relieves symptoms and significantly shortens colds.
• Honey. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration ruled that cold and cough remedies
should not be given to children younger than 2. What’s a parent with suffering kids to
do? If your child is older than 1 year, give a teaspoon of honey. Penn State researchers
tested honey against the standard over-the-counter cough suppressant
dextromethorphan in 105 children. Parents said honey worked better. (Do not give honey
to infants younger than 1 year.)
San Francisco health writer Michael Castleman is the author of 11 consumer health
books. Visit www.mcastleman. com.
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Always consult a
starting any type
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