Some people are troubled with recurring common cold symptoms or a large number of colds per year. During cold and flu season, typically from September to April, the grocery store aisles that contain the over the counter and some of the herbal remedies for common cold symptoms are crowded with people. You can become infected with a cold virus any time of the year, but it appears that most of the viruses that cause cold symptoms survive better when the humidity is lower. In most of the United States, those are the winter months.
According to information published by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), you can get relief from cold symptoms by resting in bed, drinking plenty of fluids, gargling with warm salt water, using throat sprays or lozenges for a scratchy or sore throat, using petroleum jelly for a raw nose and taking aspirin or acetaminophen for headache or fever. (Note: Aspirin and aspirin containing products should not be given to children, because of the link to Reye’s syndrome, a rare illness that can be life threatening.) Additionally, the NIAID advises that frequently recurring common cold symptoms that last for much longer than two weeks may be an allergy, rather than an infection with a common cold virus.
Opinions vary on the effectiveness of over the counter and herbal remedies for common cold symptoms. Research often comes to contradictory conclusions. Antihistamines, cough suppressants and nasal decongestants are believed to be safe when used as directed, but can cause unwanted side effects, such as nervousness, dizziness, insomnia or drowsiness. Additionally, these products are not believed to shorten the duration of symptoms.
Some research has shown that zinc nasal gels or sprays can shorten the duration of common cold symptoms when taken during the early stages of a cold, but other research concluded that they were ineffective and may have caused the permanent loss of the sense of smell in some people. Zinc lozenges, tablets or dietary supplements are sometimes recommended to shorten the duration of symptoms and have no unwanted side effects when taken in appropriate dosages.
Vitamin C is not really one of the herbal remedies for common cold symptoms, but because it is a natural product, it is sometimes grouped with them. Many studies have been done concerning the effectiveness of vitamin C for recurring common cold symptoms, both as a preventative and a treatment. The conclusions of these studies have sometimes been contradictory, but it is known that available amounts of vitamin C circulating in the blood stream are quickly depleted during an infection. When taken in appropriate amounts, it can shorten the duration and severity of symptoms and has no unwanted side effects. Mega doses of vitamin C can cause diarrhea, so it is important to follow the supplement manufacturer’s directions and reduce the dosage if diarrhea occurs.
Echinacea is one of the popular herbal remedies for common cold symptoms, but again research results do not always support its effectiveness or safety. Indian echinacea or andrographis paniculata is included in some herbal remedies for common cold prevention and has been shown to have very low toxicity in animals, even when used in large amounts. Curcumin or turmeric has been shown in studies to be a mild expectorant, while causing no unwanted side effects. Piperine, from black pepper, has been shown to enhance the beneficial effects of Curcumin.
Many vitamins, minerals, plant components and herbs work best when accompanied by others. This may be the reason that some research supports their use and others are inconclusive. Some of the best health supplement manufacturers take these facts into account when creating proprietary blends to be used for specific purposes, such as reducing recurring common cold infections. To learn more about these products, please visit the Immune System Booster Guide.