Uncommon Cold Remedies

November 19, 2012 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

The common cold is back with a vengeance this year, at least in my neck of the woods. And, while “it” never really goes away, the common cold certainly becomes more prevalent during the winter months and is as dependable as clockwork or rush hour traffic. Researchers are continually on the lookout for natural and safe ways of managing and preventing symptoms associated with upper respiratory infections (URIs). As a result, each year there are more and more holistic and integrative options to consider if you hope to avoid the seemingly inevitable coughing, runny nose and sneezing that comes with the season.

In recent months, five natural remedies have demonstrated efficacy and safety in protecting against URIs and/or minimizing symptoms relating to such viral infections. 1) Echinaforce, a standardized Echinacea purpurea extract, reduced “the total number of cold episodes” and the need for medication in a recent, 4 month placebo-controlled trial conducted at Cardiff University, UK. 2) Immun Age, a fermented papaya extract, also showed potential in lowering viral susceptibility by supporting immune function (lysozyme production and secretary IgA) and antioxidant expression in the respiratory tract of 90 study volunteers. 3) Kyolic, a popular aged garlic extract, increased the number of infection fighting cells (Natural Killer and T cells) and decreased the duration and severity of cold and flu symptoms in a double-blind trial involving 120 men and women. 4) Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum, two healthy strains of bacteria or probiotics, lowered the incidence of cough, fever and school absence in children who were supplemented with the probiotics instead of a placebo over a 3 month period of time. 5) Finally, if a cold does set in, consuming 10 grams nightly of various types of honey (citrus, eucalyptus or labiatae) provides symptomatic relief of “children’s nocturnal cough and sleep difficulty due to URI”. Prevention is always best, but safe remedies that can help you ride out a common cold are always welcome news as well.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – Safety and Efficacy Profile of E. Purpurea to Prevent Common Cold (link)

Study 2 – Is There a Potential Application of a Fermented Nutraceutical in Acute (link)

Study 3 – Supplementation w/ Aged Garlic Extract Improves Both NK and γδ-T Cell(link)

Study 4 – Randomized Controlled Trial of Probiotics to Reduce Common Cold (link)

Study 5 – Effect of Honey on Nocturnal Cough and Sleep Quality: A Double-Blind … (link)

Honey Reduces Cough Symptoms and Improves Sleep Quality

Source: Pediatrics. 2012 Sep;130(3):465-71. (link)

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Children's Health, Nutritional Supplements

11 Comments & Updates to “Uncommon Cold Remedies”

  1. Iggy Dalrymple Says:

    My favorite is “Stoss Therapy”, 1,000iu of vit D3 for each pound of body weight. Start at 1st sign of sore throat. I’m usually cured after 1 dose (over 200,000iu).

  2. JP Says:

    Thanks for that, Iggy. I’m aware of Stoss Therapy but failed to find any study of it in relation to UPIs. Of late, lower-dose Vitamin D interventions have yielded mixed results:




    Be well!


  3. JP Says:


    I should add that when a cold does come knocking at my door, I do increase my Vitamin D intake – usually to about 12,000 IUs/day for about a week or so.

    Be well!


  4. JP Says:

    Update: Pycnogenol may shorten the duration and severity of the common cold …


    Panminerva Med. 2014 Dec;56(4):301-8.

    Improvement of common cold with Pycnogenol®: a Winter registry study.

    AIM: This registry study aimed to evaluate the use of Pycnogenol® (pine bark extract), an anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-edema natural compound, on symptoms of common cold. Main targets were the evaluation in otherwise healthy subjects of signs/symptoms, the reduction in days of disease, and the prevention of complications.

    METHODS: All subjects used the “best management” for colds and one group added Pycnogenol® capsules (50 mg, bid/die) from day zero. The resulting registry groups were comparable. A total of 70 subjects used Pycnogenol® and 76 acted as controls.

    RESULTS: The number of days with a perceived cold affecting the patients was reduced in the supplement group (3.1;0.4 days) in comparison with controls (4.2;0.2). Lost working days were significantly decreased in the supplement group (0.55;0.3 versus 0.67;0.3 in controls). The need to use any other compound (on demand basis; OTC products) to manage symptoms and the occurrence of any clinically significant complications were significantly lower in the Pycnogenol® group. The most frequent complications were the extension of the cold to a period longer than 4 days, a tracheal extension and a bronchial involvement. Pycnogenol® was significantly effective in reducing the number of complications. The daily evolution of the “pillar cold signs” indicates a significantly faster resolution in the supplement group. With supplementation the decrease in symptom scores appears to be significantly more important. Pycnogenol® supplementation appears to make regression faster for all symptoms in comparison with controls.

    CONCLUSION: In this pilot registry, Pycnogenol® appears to decrease symptoms of cold and shorten its course also preventing some complications.

    Be well!


  5. JP Says:

    Update: It may not be uncommon, but echinacea is still worth considering …


    Adv Ther. 2015 Mar 18.

    Echinacea Reduces the Risk of Recurrent Respiratory Tract Infections and Complications: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.

    INTRODUCTION: Respiratory tract infections are common, and these infections occur frequently in children, susceptible adults, and older persons. The risk for recurrences and complications relates not only to the presence of viruses but also to immune function. Therefore, modulation of the immune system and antiviral interventions such as echinacea might reduce the risk of recurrences and possibly the development of complications.

    METHODS: MEDLINE, EMBASE, CAplus, BIOSIS, CABA, AGRICOLA, TOXCENTER, SCISEARCH, NAHL, and NAPRALERT were searched for clinical trials that studied recurrent respiratory infections and complications on treatment with echinacea extracts in a generally healthy population. Two independent reviewers selected randomized, placebo-controlled studies of high methodological quality and a Jadad score of ≥4. Relative risks (RRs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated according to a fixed effect model.

    RESULTS: Six clinical studies with a total of 2458 participants were included in the meta-analysis. Use of echinacea extracts was associated with reduced risk of recurrent respiratory infections (RR 0.649, 95% CI 0.545-0.774; P < 0.0001). Ethanolic extracts from echinacea appeared to provide superior effects over pressed juices, and increased dosing during acute episodes further enhanced these effects. Three independent studies found that in individuals with higher susceptibility, stress or a state of immunological weakness, echinacea halved the risk of recurrent respiratory infections (RR 0.501, 95% CI 0.380-0.661; P < 0.0001). Similar preventive effects were observed with virologically confirmed recurrent infections (RR 0.420, 95% CI 0.222-0.796; P = 0.005). Complications including pneumonia, otitis media/externa, and tonsillitis/pharyngitis were also less frequent with echinacea treatment (RR 0.503, 95% CI 0.384-0.658; P < 0.0001). CONCLUSION: Evidence indicates that echinacea potently lowers the risk of recurrent respiratory infections and complications thereof. Immune modulatory, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory effects might contribute to the observed clinical benefits, which appear strongest in susceptible individuals. Be well! JP

  6. JP Says:

    Update: The health benefits of hugging …


    Psychol Sci. 2015 Feb;26(2):135-47.

    Does hugging provide stress-buffering social support? A study of susceptibility to upper respiratory infection and illness.

    Perceived social support has been hypothesized to protect against the pathogenic effects of stress. How such protection might be conferred, however, is not well understood. Using a sample of 404 healthy adults, we examined the roles of perceived social support and received hugs in buffering against interpersonal stress-induced susceptibility to infectious disease. Perceived support was assessed by questionnaire, and daily interpersonal conflict and receipt of hugs were assessed by telephone interviews on 14 consecutive evenings. Subsequently, participants were exposed to a virus that causes a common cold and were monitored in quarantine to assess infection and illness signs. Perceived support protected against the rise in infection risk associated with increasing frequency of conflict. A similar stress-buffering effect emerged for hugging, which explained 32% of the attenuating effect of support. Among infected participants, greater perceived support and more-frequent hugs each predicted less-severe illness signs. These data suggest that hugging may effectively convey social support.

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Update 04/21/15:


    BMC Fam Pract. 2015 Feb 25;16(1):24.

    The effectiveness of high dose zinc acetate lozenges on various common cold symptoms: a meta-analysis.

    BACKGROUND: A previous meta-analysis found that high dose zinc acetate lozenges reduced the duration of common colds by 42%, whereas low zinc doses had no effect. Lozenges are dissolved in the pharyngeal region, thus there might be some difference in the effect of zinc lozenges on the duration of respiratory symptoms in the pharyngeal region compared with the nasal region. The objective of this study was to determine whether zinc acetate lozenges have different effects on the duration of common cold symptoms originating from different anatomical regions.

    METHODS: We analyzed three randomized trials on zinc acetate lozenges for the common cold administering zinc in doses of 80-92 mg/day. All three trials reported the effect of zinc on seven respiratory symptoms, and three systemic symptoms. We pooled the effects of zinc lozenges for each symptom and calculated point estimates and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI).

    RESULTS: Zinc acetate lozenges shortened the duration of nasal discharge by 34% (95% CI: 17% to 51%), nasal congestion by 37% (15% to 58%), sneezing by 22% (-1% to 45%), scratchy throat by 33% (8% to 59%), sore throat by 18% (-10% to 46%), hoarseness by 43% (3% to 83%), and cough by 46% (28% to 64%). Zinc lozenges shortened the duration of muscle ache by 54% (18% to 89%), but there was no difference in the duration of headache and fever.

    CONCLUSIONS: The effect of zinc acetate lozenges on cold symptoms may be associated with the local availability of zinc from the lozenges, with the levels being highest in the pharyngeal region. However our findings indicate that the effects of zinc ions are not limited to the pharyngeal region. There is no indication that the effect of zinc lozenges on nasal symptoms is less than the effect on the symptoms of the pharyngeal region, which is more exposed to released zinc ions. Given that the adverse effects of zinc in the three trials were minor, zinc acetate lozenges releasing zinc ions at doses of about 80 mg/day may be a useful treatment for the common cold, started within 24 hours, for a time period of less than two weeks.

    Be well!


  8. JP Says:

    Updated 12/22/15:


    Phytomedicine. 2015 Dec 1;22(13):1195-200.

    Antitussive effect of a fixed combination of Justicia adhatoda, Echinacea purpurea and Eleutherococcus senticosus extracts in patients with acute upper respiratory tract infection: A comparative, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.

    BACKGROUND: Kan Jang® oral solution (KJ) is a fixed combination of aqueous ethanolic extracts of Justicia adhatoda L. leaf, Echinacea purpurea (L.) Moench root, and Eleutherococcus senticosus (Rupr. & Maxim.) Harms root. It is approved in Scandinavia as an herbal medicinal product for respiratory tract infection treatment.

    PURPOSE: The present clinical trial aimed to compare the antitussive effect of KJ with placebo (PL) and bromhexine (BH) among patients of 18-65 years old with non-complicated upper respiratory infections (URI; i.e., common cold).

    STUDY DESIGN: We performed a parallel-group, randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial in in 177 patients with acute URI over a 5 day period.

    METHODS: We investigated the antitussive effects of a KJ (30 ml/day; 762 mg genuine extracts with standardized contents of 0.2 mg/ml vasicine, 0.8 mg/ml chicoric acid, and 0.03 mg/ml eleutherosides B and E), bromhexine hydrochloride (24 mg/30 ml/day) and PL on cough and blood markers. The primary outcome was cough relief, which was assessed as the change of cough frequency from baseline (cough index). Secondary outcomes were safety with regards to reported adverse events (AEs) and hematological data.

    RESULTS: Both KJ and BH relieved cough more effectively than placebo. On the third and fourth days of treatment, we observed faster improvement in the group receiving KJ compared to in the groups receiving BH (100%) or PL (100%), indicating a slightly shorter recovery time in the KJ group. KJ showed a good tolerability and safety profile.

    CONCLUSION: KJ exerted significant antitussive effects in URI. The present data further support the therapeutic use of KJ in upper respiratory tract infections.

    Be well!


  9. JP Says:

    Updated 04/04/16:


    Nutrients 2016, 8(4), 182

    Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial

    Abstract: Intercontinental air travel can be stressful, especially for respiratory health. Elderberries have been used traditionally, and in some observational and clinical studies, as supportive agents against the common cold and influenza. This randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial of 312 economy class passengers travelling from Australia to an overseas destination aimed to investigate if a standardised membrane filtered elderberry (Sambucus nigra L.) extract has beneficial effects on physical, especially respiratory, and mental health. Cold episodes, cold duration and symptoms were noted in a daily diary and assessed using the Jackson score. Participants also completed three surveys containing questions regarding upper respiratory symptoms (WURSS-21) and quality of life (SF-12) at baseline, just before travel and at 4-days after travel. Most cold episodes occurred in the placebo group (17 vs. 12), however the difference was not significant (p = 0.4). Placebo group participants had a significantly longer duration of cold episode days (117 vs. 57, p = 0.02) and the average symptom score over these days was also significantly higher (583 vs. 247, p = 0.05). These data suggest a significant reduction of cold duration and severity in air travelers. More research is warranted to confirm this effect and to evaluate elderberry’s physical and mental health benefits.

    Be well!


  10. JP Says:

    Updated 04/14/16:


    Nutrition & Metabolism201613:28

    Does larch arabinogalactan enhance immune function? A review of mechanistic and clinical trials

    The common cold is a viral infection with important economic burdens in Western countries. The research and development of nutritional solutions to reduce the incidence and severity of colds today is a major focus of interest, and larch arabinogalactan seems to be a promising supportive agent. Arabinogalactan has been consumed by humans for thousands of years and is found in a variety of common vegetables as well as in medicinal herbs. The major commercial sources of this long, densely branched, high-molecular-weight polysaccharide are North American larch trees. The aim of this article is to review the immunomodulatory effects of larch arabinogalactan derived from Larix laricina and Larix occidentalis (North American Larix species) and more specifically its role in the resistance to common cold infections. In cell and animal models, larch arabinogalactan is capable of enhancing natural killer cells and macrophages as well as the secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines. In humans a clinical study demonstrated that larch arabinogalactan increased the body’s potential to defend against common cold infection. Larch arabinogalactan decreased the incidence of cold episodes by 23 %. Improvements of serum antigen-specific IgG and IgE response to Streptococcus pneumoniae and tetanus vaccination suggesting a B cell dependent mechanism have been reported in vaccination studies with larch arabinogalactan, while the absence of response following influenza vaccination suggests the involvement of a T cell dependent mechanism. These observations suggest a role for larch arabinogalactan in the improvement of cold infections, although the mode of action remains to be further explored. Different hypotheses can be envisaged as larch arabinogalactan can possibly act indirectly through microbiota-dependent mechanisms and/or have a direct effect on the immune system via the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT).

    Be well!


  11. JP Says:

    Updated 12/17/16:


    Allergol Immunopathol (Madr). 2016 Dec 7.

    Effects of Mediterranean diet in patients with recurring colds and frequent complications.

    INTRODUCTION: In recent years, traditional diets enriched with fresh plant-based foods have been gradually abandoned, increasing the consumption of animal foods and highly processed food. The aim of this study was to assess the effects of a nutritional intervention with a Traditional Mediterranean Diet in patients with recurring colds (RC) and frequent inflammatory complications (IC).

    METHODS: Prospective before-after comparison study of 63 girls and 65 boys aged 1-5 years were included over a year in the nutritional programme “Learning to eat from the Mediterranean”. We studied clinical and therapeutic variables and various anthropometric parameters.

    RESULTS: All the studied indicators (number of catarrhal episodes CB, degree of intensity, emergency and hospital admissions) showed a positive and statistically significant evolution, evidenced from the first weeks of starting treatment, until the end of the year, after which 53.9% of patients had no CB, 25% had only one, and 16.4% had two episodes, compared to the 4.64 episodes on average in the previous year. Antibiotic use decreased by 87.4%, from 3.85±1.27 times/patient/year to 0.49±0.79 (p<0.001). Symptomatic treatment decreased by 56.7%, from 7.03±2.76 to 3.05±1.69 (p<0.001). The satisfaction of the families was very high. The Kidmed index, which assesses the quality of the Mediterranean Diet, increased from 7.8 to 10.9 points.

    CONCLUSION: The adoption of a Traditional Mediterranean Diet could be a major contribution to the improvement of patients with recurring colds and frequent inflammatory complications.

    Be well!


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