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Treating the common cold

MagazineMarch 2006 (Vol. 16 Issue 12)Treating the common cold

Sugar and liquidsAvoid sugar - even 'natural' ones like honey or orange juice

Sugar and liquids
Avoid sugar - even 'natural' ones like honey or orange juice. Sugar lowers vitamin C and, thus, immune function (Am J Clin Nutr, 1973, 26: 1180-4). Also, the old adage about drinking plenty of fluids is true. Dry mucous membranes encourage viruses, so drinking lots of liquids and/or using a vapouriser will keep your membranes moist (Murray MT, Pizzorno JE Jr. An Encyclopaedia of Natural Medicine. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1990: 229).

Exercise
Regular moderate exercise can lower your risk of catching a cold. Sedentary people are at medium risk, and elite athletes in intense training are at high risk (Int J Sports Med, 1997; 18: S69-S77). Adopting an exercise regime can lead to fewer/shorter infections (Med Sci Sports Exerc, 1998; 30: 679-86).

Herbs
* Inhale steamed herbs such as Matricaria recutita (German chamomile) to alleviate cold symptoms (Eur J Pharm, 1990; 183: 728-9).
* Andrographis paniculata (green chiretta) taken at the first signs of a cold significantly reduces the duration and severity of symptoms (Phytomed, 1999; 6: 217-23).
* Radix Astragali membranacei (milk-vetch root) can reduce colds and their duration by boosting interferons, which help to prevent viral infection (Chang HM, But PPH. Pharmacology and Applications of Chinese Materia Medica, vol 2. Teaneck, NJ: World Scientific Publishing, 1987: 1041-6).
* Fructus Ligustri lucidi (privet fruit) has similar beneficial effects (Arzneim Forsch, 1985; 26: 1069-75).
* Echinacea angustifolia as a tea can shorten the duration of cold symptoms (J Alt Complement Med, 2000; 6:3 27-334).
* Panax ginseng (Korean ginseng) - 100 mg/day for 12 weeks - reduced the number of colds, and might boost the effect of flu vaccine (Drugs Exp Clin Res, 1996; 22:65-72).

Homeopathy
During the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, which killed up to 50 million people, US homeopaths recorded mortality rates of 1.05 per cent or less, while conventional physicians had mortality rates of around 30 per cent (J Am Inst Homeop, 1921; 13: 1028-43). More recently, four randomised controlled trials of various homeopathic remedies and combinations for the common cold all achieved positive outcomes (Zeitschr Allgemeinmed, 1997; 73: 308-14; Br J Clin Pharmacol, 1989; 27: 329-35; Drug Res, 1988; 38: 578-82; Drug Res 1981; 31: 732-6). The lattermost two reported results similar to those with aspirin.

Nutritional supplements
So far, the evidence for most vitamins as a cold preventative or treatment are inconclusive, possibly because most studies have looked at supplements on their own. Only one trial of zinc in adults found a positive result (Ann Intern Med, 2000; 133: 245-52). Yet, zinc with selenium was preventative, according to a large study of elderly institutionalised patients (Arch Intern Med, 1999; 159: 748-54).

Saunas
Saunas once or twice a week for six months can lower the incidence of colds (Ann Med, 1990; 22: 225-7).

Acupressure
Relieve nasal congestion by applying acupressure to the ying xiang acupoints (LI20; half an inch on either side of the nostrils, along the crease running from the nose to corner of the mouth (Am J Rhinol, 1999; 13: 77-9).

De-stressing
Get rid of stress. Stress hormones released by the adrenals shrink the thymus gland, the major gland of immunity. Nutrition is key for a healthy immune system, but other factors include: alcohol and smoking; high blood sugar, triglycerides and cholesterol; excess sugar; allergies; chemical exposure (environmental); and prescribed/recreational drugs.

Your programme at a glance
* Bedrest, if possible
* Large amounts of diluted vegetable juices, soups and herbal infusions
* No sugar (including fruit sugars)
* Vitamin C (up to 1 g/day, but decrease if diarrhoea ensues)
* Bioflavonoids (1 g/day)
* Beta-carotene (200,000 IU/day)
* Selenium plus zinc as supplements
* Homeopathy, or E. angustifolia or R. A. membranacei (or F. L. lucidi) three times daily during the illness as:

tincture (1:5): 5 mL-1 tsp
fluid extract (1:1): 0.5-2.0 mL (1/4-1/2 tsp)
powdered solid extract (4:1): 250-500 mg
dried root (or fruit) or infusion: 1-2 g
freeze-dried root (or fruit): 500-1000 mg.

Harald Gaier

Harald Gaier, a registered naturopath, osteopath, homoeopath and herbalist, practices at The Health Equation, 11 Harley Street, London W1G 9PF (tel: 020 7612 9800/07917 662 042) and The Irish Centre of Integrated Medicine, Co. Kildare [tel: 00353 (0) 4588 3224]. Also see www.drgaier.com


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