Skip to content
    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Natural Cold and Flu Remedies

    Americans are turning to cold and flu supplements in greater numbers.
    By
    WebMD Feature
    Reviewed by David Kiefer, MD

    This year, people in the U.S. will come down with about 50 million cases of flu and about a billion colds. Although the misery of cold and flu season might be inevitable, one thing is changing: where we look for relief.

    Research indicates that many of us are turning away from the over-the-counter medicines we grew up with and toward natural cold and flu remedies, like vitamin C, zinc, echinacea, and others.

    Recommended Related to Cold & Flu

    Get to the Bottom of Your Sore Throat

    As a symptom of illness, sore throat rivals fatigue for being both commonplace and a potential sign of catastrophe. Usually, having a sore throat is nothing to worry about -- most are caused by cold and flu germs. In rare cases, however, a sore throat can signal something much more serious. One of the first symptoms of infection caused by the dreaded ebola virus, for example, is a sore throat. And strep bacteria, a common cause of sore throat, especially in children, can spread like wildfire if...

    Read the Get to the Bottom of Your Sore Throat article > >

    • Last year, we spent more than $1.5 billion on supplements to boost immunity and help ward off colds and the flu.
    • The market for these supplements appears to be growing more than twice as fast as the market for over-the-counter cold and flu drugs.

    Experts aren't surprised. "From a conventional medical standpoint, there's just not much that's effective for cold and flu," says David C. Leopold, MD, director of integrative medical education at the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine in San Diego. "People are trying to find something else that will work."

    The incentive may be particularly strong now, given recent FDA reports about the ineffectiveness -- and even risks -- of over-the-counter cold and flu treatments in children.

    But do alternative treatments offer the relief that pharmaceutical companies can't? There's growing evidence to suggest that some might -- at least to a modest degree. WebMD turned to the experts to get the details.

    Natural Cold and Flu Remedies: How Good Is the Evidence?

    First things first: cold and flu viruses are not the same thing. Although colds are a drag, flu is much worse.

    • The symptoms of flu are more severe; they include fever and body aches along with congestion.
    • Flu can be dangerous, too; flu kills more than 30,000 people a year.

    But because there's some overlap in symptoms, treatments are often lumped together.

    How well do natural cold and flu remedies work? Paul M. Coates, PhD, director of the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health, says that possible benefits appear to be small. But that's a good thing, in a way.

    "If a supplement has a big, positive effect, then we worry about an equally powerful negative effect," Coates tells WebMD. Experts agree that popular natural cold and flu remedies seem to be safe for the average person. That's important when dealing with unproven treatments. As long as there's little risk in trying a supplement, the evidence of a benefit doesn't need to be quite so strong.

    1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

    Hot Topics

    WebMD Video: Now Playing

    Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

    Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

    Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

    Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

    disciplining a boy
    Types, symptoms, causes.
    fruit drinks
    Eat these to think better.
    embarrassed woman
    Do you feel guilty after eating?
    diabetes supply kit
    Pack and prepare.
    Balding man in mirror
    Treatments & solutions.
    birth control pills
    Which kind is right for you?
    Remember your finger
    Are you getting more forgetful?
    sticky notes on face
    10 tips to clear your brain fog.
    Close up of eye
    12 reasons you're distracted.
    Trainer demonstrating exercise for RA
    Exercises for your joints.
    apple slices with peanut butter
    What goes best with workouts?
    Pink badge on woman chest to support breat cancer
    Myths and facts.

    Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

    It's nothing to sneeze at.

    Loading ...

    Sending your email...

    This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

    Thanks!

    Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

    Women's Health Newsletter

    Find out what women really need.