Honing in on Cold Remedies
If you've got a cold, what should you take?
Drinking hot water alone increased velocity from 6.2 to 8.4 millimeters per minute, while cold water slowed the velocity from 7.3 to 4.5. Although researchers didn't know why chicken soup was better than plain hot water, they believe both worked at least in part because of the inhalation of water vapor.
The thought of pouring salt water down your nostrils may not be appealing, but a Pennsylvania State University study presented at the 1998 American Academy of Family Physicians Annual Scientific Assembly in San Francisco reported that it could help keep you cold-free.
Researchers divided 294 college students into three groups who either took an inactive pill, gargled with salt water, or irrigated their nasal canals with salt water every day. Students who used the daily saline rinse (one cup of water for every teaspoon of salt) had significantly fewer colds in the 10-week period than those in the other groups.
You can also use nasal irrigation once you have a cold, says Barron. Buy a neti pot, which looks like a teapot with a long narrow spout and is made for this purpose, or use any plastic squeeze bottle with a tip that could fit into your nostril. After filling the container with saline solution, put the spout or tip into one nostril while holding down the other nostril with your hand. Tip your head back and slowly pour in the solution. You'll probably have to stop and spit it out as it runs into your throat.
Homeopathy fights disease using highly diluted extracts of plants, animals, and minerals as well as other chemicals. No one knows why that approach should work, and that's one reason homeopathy remains controversial. But some small studies suggest that homeopathy works at least as well as aspirin against the symptoms of the common cold.
One German study published in the April 1988 Arzneimittel-Forschung involved 170 army soldiers with colds. Half were given aspirin and the other half a homeopathic preparation. Researchers found that patients using homeopathy experienced the same number of symptoms and missed the same number of workdays as those taking aspirin. If you want to try homeopathy for your cold, look for a product labeled for treating multiple cold symptoms.
The bottom line? There's still no cure for the common cold. But if you want to try fighting the bug without risking side effects, all these remedies are worth considering