The average person will become sick with a cold two to four times a year and still there is no cure for the common cold. In North America the common cold costs the economy about $20 billion a year in lost productivity and medical expenses.
Colds are caused by a viral infection affecting the upper respiratory tract. Because it is a virus, a cold does not respond to antibiotics, which only treat bacterial infections. The reason it is so difficult to find a cure for the common cold is that so many different viruses can cause a cold.
Causes and Cures:
It was once though that cold weather was a cause of getting a cold. Experts believe that the increase in people catching a cold in the winter is that we spend more time indoors where the contagious cold viruses are easier to spread. However, there is some research that suggest that cold temperatures may weaken the immune system, which allows viruses easier access to our bodies.
Many people turn to herbal remedies rather than over-the-counter drugs. Although herbs are natural substances they can also react negatively with some medications and even with other herbs. They may also be dangerous for certain health conditions, pregnant or nursing mothers and for children.
Echinacea is one of the herbs most widely used for the treatment of a cold as it helps boost the immune system and in most cases tends to make the cold less of an annoying affliction. It is important, however, to always check with your health care practitioner before using any herbs or supplements.
Astragalus is a type of legume, found largely in northern China, and has been used in Chinese herbal medicine for thousands of years. Like Echinacea it is an immune system booster. The plant’s dried roots are used in tear or soup.
Research has shown that astragalus can increase the body’s level of interferon (proteins that attack pathogens like viruses) as well as macrophages – white blood cells that defend against attack to the immune system.[i]
Andrographis is used extensively in India and Sri Lanka. The leaves as well as the roots are used in this Asian herbal medicine. Its reputation for boosting the immune system has spread beyond Asia as Andrographis supplements are widely used in Sweden to ward off viruses during the cold and flu seasons.
A review of randomized controlled studies of Andrographis published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics showed that herb was effective in treating upper respiratory infections.[ii] Another study in Chile showed Andrographis as an effective agent in drying congested nasal passages.
Cat’s Claw is a vine that grows in the jungles of South America and is named for its claw-shaped horns. Like many herbal remedies it has been used for centuries in South America to reduce fever and has also been found to have anti-inflammatory and immunostimulant properties.
No doubt we have all heard of Elderberry wine, but did you know these berries are loaded with antioxidants that can help protect our cells from invading viruses? In Germany and Austria the berries are processed and sold as a liquid extract to reduce cold and flu symptoms, such as fever and headaches.
A study done in Israel showed elderberry extract was effective in treating the influenza B virus. According to the research, the flu sufferers treated with elderberry extract were cured in two to three days, compared to six days for the placebo group.[iii]
Leavers from the eucalyptus tree, found mostly in Australia, are used to make this oil. The aboriginal people of Australia often used the leaves as medicine and science has shown eucalyptus has antimicrobial properties. The oil is a natural way to help reduce congestion caused by colds. One of the most popular ways to benefit from eucalyptus is to add a few drops of the oil to hot water and inhale the steam as a treatment for upper respiratory infection.
Herbs are one way to help prevent colds and flu this winter, but regular visits to your Chiropractor also helps since Chiropractic has been proven to boost your immune system.
[i] In vitro and in vivo immune modulating and immunorestorative effects of Astragalus membranaceus – Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Volume 113, Issue 1, 15 August 2007, pages 132-141.
[ii] Andrographis paniculata in the symptomatic treatment of uncomplicated upper respiratory tract infection: systematic review of randomized controlled trials – Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, Volume 29, Issue 1, pages 37-45, Feb 2004.
[iii] Inhibition of Several Strains of Influenza Virus in Vitro and Reduction of Symptoms by an Elderberry Extract (sambucus nigra L.) during an Outbreak of Influenza B Panama – The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine – Winter 1995, 1(4): 361-369.