While rhinoviruses cause upto half of colds, up to 200 other viruses have been implicated.

Researchers at the University of Ottawa, in Ontario, reviewed the evidence for CAM to treat and prevent the common cold.

Here’s what we know.

  • Echinacea purpurea
    • Moderate evidencesupports its use to treat the commoncold.
    • Issues surrounding dose and formulation require clarification.
    • 2 studies on preventionreported no reduction in symptom duration or severity.
  • Panax ginseng(Asian ginseng)
    • There are no studies on treatmentof the common cold.
    • 1 study in vaccinated healthy adultstaking 100 mg of an extract for 12 weeks reported that the ginseng group suffered significantly fewer colds vs placebo.
  • Vitamin C
    • Studies of treatment report no or minimal benefit.
    • Taking at least 1 gram of vitamin C per day to prevent colds results in a moderatereduction in symptom duration (1 to 2 days) in adults and children.
    • It can also be recommended for use by athletesin intense training.
  • Alliumsativum
    • There are no studies of allicin (an organosulfur compound in garlic) for treatment.
    • There is 1 study of prevention where benefits were significant.
  • Probiotics
    • No studies have evaluated probiotics for treatmentof the common cold.
    • Most studies do not support probiotics to prevent colds.
  • Zinc
    • Zinc might be effective for treatment,but issues surrounding dose and bioavailability require clarification.
    • Surprisingly, there are no studies of zinc for preventionof the common cold.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “The most consistent evidence supports the useof at least 1 gram of vitamin C per day, which decreased symptomduration by 8% in adults and 18% in children.”

Considering all the hype, it’s surprising that so little research supports these CAM options.

1/27/11 19:47 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.