4 Natural Cold Remedies: Do They Work?
Experts share their views of some popular cold treatments.
Natural Cold Remedies: The Rundown continued...
3. Echinacea. The herbal supplement echinacea, like Vitamin C, sparks
controversy among cold experts. Advocates say it's an immune booster with
antiviral properties and other benefits, so it's good at preventing colds. However, two
recent studies on the natural remedy have yielded conflicting conclusions. In
one 2007 study, University of Connecticut researchers concluded that echinacea
decreases the odds of developing a cold by 58% and reduces its duration by 1.4
days. But a previous study, conducted by Gwaltney's colleagues at the
University of Virginia and published in 2005 in The New England Journal of
Medicine, showed no benefit from the herb in either reducing the severity
of a cold infection or preventing a cold.
Echinacea drew a "no" vote from our three experts -- Gwaltney, Blandino, and
Owen Hendley, MD, professor of pediatrics in the division of infectious
diseases at the University of Virginia, Charlottesvile.
4. Chicken Soup. Advocates of hot chicken soup, long offered as a
cold remedy, say it may help soothe inflammation that can make the symptoms worse.
The problem with proving scientifically that chicken soup works, says
Gwaltney, is finding a legitimate placebo food to study against it in a
scientific way. "We were contacted by a soup manufacturer to do a study on
chicken soup," he tells WebMD. "We thought we could use another hot beverage"
for placebo, he says. "But it's got to look, smell, and taste [like chicken
soup]." They didn't find anything that measured up. Gwaltney calls
chicken soup "a waste of time."
That's despite the well-publicized report published in 2000 in which
researchers reported that chicken soup, which they studied in the laboratory,
may have an anti-inflammatory effect on easing symptoms of upper respiratory
infections. But the report doesn't prove chicken soup does anything for cold symptoms, Gwaltney says,
because it didn't include a test of people nor include a placebo for
Although chicken soup may not actively fight a cold, it can help fight dehydration that can occur when you have a cold or the
Preventing a Cold: Does Anything Really Work?
Hand washing has long been touted as a way to prevent a cold during cold and
flu season, and experts agree that is wise.
But here's the newest twist: Paying attention to where you put your hands --
and scheduling your hand washing around where your hands have been, rather than
the clock -- appear to be important, too. That's because cold viruses may
linger on surfaces longer then suspected, Hendley and his colleagues have
Hendley and other University of Virginia researchers did a study published
in 2007 of people with a cold who stayed overnight in a hotel. "We went in the
next day and swabbed 10 sites they had touched," Hendley says.