Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

Font Size

Ginseng for Gesundheit? Latest Study on Colds

Benefits Reported in Study Funded by Ginseng Maker; Results Debated
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 24, 2005 -- Does ginseng help prevent or treat the common cold?

Two different takes on that topic appear in the latest issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

On one hand, the journal contains a study showing fewer, shorter colds in Canadians who took ginseng pills daily for four months during flu season.

However, the study's findings are questioned in a journal editorial.

Ginseng Study

The ginseng study was conducted by researchers including Tapan Basu, PhD, of the Agricultural, Food, and Nutritional Sciences department at Canada's University of Alberta. The study was funded by the ginseng pill's manufacturer.

Participants were adults aged 18-65 living in Edmonton, Alberta. They all reported having at least two colds during the previous year but were otherwise basically healthy.

Participants were given capsules of North American ginseng or dummy pills (placebo). The ginseng pills were standardized to have 200 milligrams of freeze-dried ginseng extract per capsule.

Participants were told to take two pills daily for four months during the flu season of 2003-2004 and to rate their cold symptoms on a four-point scale during that season.

Study's Results

The ginseng group reportedly had fewer, milder, shorter colds.

For instance, one in 10 people in the ginseng group reported having two or more colds that winter, compared with about 23% of those taking the placebo.

Colds lasted about 11 days for the ginseng group and 16.5 days for the placebo group, the study shows. There was no difference between the groups in the use of additional medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs or antibiotics, according to the researchers.

Participants weren't told which type of pill they had gotten. When asked by the researchers after the study, most people in both groups said they thought they had gotten the ginseng pills.

Both pills were generally well tolerated, write Basu and colleagues.

The study was funded by the ginseng pill's maker, CV Technologies of Edmonton, Alberta. The company didn't have any other role in the study, the journal states.

Lingering Questions

The study relied on participants' reports. It didn't sort out who had a common cold and who had the flu.

Today on WebMD

hot toddy
15 tips to help you feel better.
man sneezing into elbow
Do echinacea and vitamin C really help a cold?
teen girl coughing
Get a good night’s rest with these remedies.
elder berry
Eat these to fight colds, flu, and more.
Natural Cold Flu Remedies Slideshow
cold weather
Allergy And Sinus Symptom Evaluator
Boy holding ear
woman receiving vaccine shot
woman with fever
Waking up from sleep
woman with sore throat