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Ginseng helps prevent common cold
In research published in the October 25 2005 issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal Gerald N. Predy and colleagues from the University of Alberta and the University of Western Ontario found that administering an extract of North American ginseng root to adults with a history of frequent upper respiratory tract infections cut cold incidence as well as lowered cold symptoms and duration.
In a randomized, double-blind trial, 130 men and women received 2 capsules per day of a poly-furanosyl-pyranosyl-saccharide-rich extract of North American ginseng for a four month period while 149 received a placebo. Similar extracts have been shown in prior research to enhance lymphocyte function and immune response. Participants in the study were instructed to complete daily logs to document and rate cold symptoms.
At the study’s completion, it was found that the group who received the ginseng extract experienced fewer colds than the placebo group. Ten percent of those who received ginseng reported having two or more colds during the study period compared to 22.8 percent of those who received placebos. Cold sufferers in the ginseng group experienced an average cold duration of 8.7 days versus 11.1 days among those who did not receive ginseng. Symptoms were also rated as less severe by the ginseng group.
Although the study was not designed to distinguish influenza from the common cold, the authors observed that the results obtained for ginseng extract in this study are comparable to those obtained with many common antiviral drugs such as rimantadine or zanamivir for influenza. While these antiviral drugs have been reported to reduce the duration of illness by 1.5 to 2.5 days, ginseng extract reduced cold duration by 2.4 days. Another advantage of ginseng is its potential effectiveness against a broader range of viruses. The authors conclude that North American ginseng extract is “an attractive natural prophylactic treatment for upper respiratory infections.”
The common cold is caused by more than 300 serologically distinct viruses. Since there are so many different types, it is impossible to develop a single vaccine effective against them all.
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial has shown that zinc gluconate lozenges produce a reduction in the duration of cold symptoms. In this study, patients received zinc lozenges or placebo lozenges every 2 hours for the duration of cold symptoms. The median time to complete resolution of cold symptoms was 4.4 days in the zinc group, compared with 7.6 days in the placebo group (Anon. 1997).
Another study to test the benefits of zinc gluconate lozenges showed that the time to complete resolution of symptoms was significantly shorter in the zinc group than in the placebo group. The zinc group had significantly fewer days with coughing, headache, hoarseness, nasal congestion, nasal drainage, and sore throat (Mossad et al. 1996). By dissolving two zinc lozenges in the mouth every few hours, the zinc will help inactivate cold viruses multiplying in the throat.
Scientific research shows that garlic is a source of phytochemicals that protects against infection and inflammation, lowers the risk of heart disease, and has anticancer effects. Garlic is rich in antioxidants that include organosulfur compounds and flavonoids, capable of scavenging free radicals. Garlic also contains selenium, which is required for the antioxidant enzyme glutathione peroxidase. These properties help to enhance the immune system in fighting off infections caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
Human studies (Abdullah 1989) confirm immune stimulation by garlic. Subjects receiving aged garlic extract at 1800 mg a day for 3 weeks showed a 155.5% increase in immune cell activity. Garlic and garlic preparations increase the activity of immune cells, including macrophages that kill infectious invaders.
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