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Understanding Common Cold -- Treatments

What Are Treatments for the Common Cold? continued...

After much research, vitamin C is believed to have a small effect in preventing colds, and no benefit in treating a cold. There have been several large studies in adults and in children, but the results have been inconclusive. Taking a lot of vitamin C over a long period of time can be harmful.

Chicken soup has been heralded as a cold therapy since the 12th century. Recent scientific evidence shows mild support for the notion that chicken soup reduces cold symptoms, especially congestion.

Asian healing treatments often use hot soups to treat upper respiratory infections, making use of red pepper, lemongrass, and ginger, in particular. Any food spicy enough to make your eyes water will have the same effect on your nose, promoting drainage. If you feel like eating, a hot, spicy soup may help ease your cold symptoms.

To ease cold symptoms, the essential oils of aromatherapy may be rubbed on the body, inhaled with steam, diffused into the air, or poured on a cloth to be used as a compress. Try rubbing diluted eucalyptus oil on the chest as a decongestant, or inhale eucalyptus or peppermint oil to clear stuffiness. Adding lavender, cedar, or lemon to steam may also soothe nasal passages. Inhaling menthol not only provides relief from nasal congestion, but might help inhibit infection as well. Rosemary, thyme, mint, basil, and tea tree oils can also provide relief from symptoms of a cold. Use caution if you have asthma, since aromatherapy can trigger an attack.

Many Americans turn to herbal remedies to ease cold symptoms. Some research supports the use of the Chinese herbal remedies yin chao and gan mao ling. Rather than self-prescribe, it's best to consult an expert practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).

Echinacea may help strengthen the immune system by stimulating the activity of white blood cells, but there is little evidence that it can prevent colds in particular. Several studies show adults using echinacea at the first sign of a cold suffered shorter and less severe illness. Because herbs are so poorly regulated and labeled in the U.S., however, it's difficult to know if the product you're using contains the right species and active ingredient. If you decide to try echinacea, take small doses for no more than eight weeks, since prolonged use may suppress your immune system.

Little research exists to support the use of other herbs, such as astragalus, eyebright, elder flower, garlic, ginseng, goldenseal, or yarrow.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on March 30, 2014

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