The common cold is among the leading reasons for missing school or work. More than 200 different viruses can cause colds. As the cold season approaches many people are beginning to turn to complementary medicines to prevent or treat the common cold. But what complementary medicines offer relief for the common cold. Here’s a look into a mineral, vitamin and herbal preparation - Zinc, Vitamin C and Echinacea.
Zinc is a mineral that is naturally found in some foods, and is also available as a dietary supplement. Zinc is needed in our diet, because it is used by the body for many functions, including the immune system, wound healing, the ability to taste and smell, and normal growth and development of a baby during pregnancy, childhood and adolescence.
Clinical trials have shown that zinc might shorten the length of your cold and improve symptoms if you are generally healthy and you take zinc within 24 hours of your symptoms appearing. However, zinc lozenges can cause side effects like nausea or a bad taste in the mouth, and oral zinc supplements may cause gastrointestinal disturbances.
Vitamin C is a vitamin found in fresh fruit and some vegetables, especially citrus fruits. Vitamin C is also available as a dietary supplement. Vitamin C plays an important role in keeping your skin, bones and connective tissue healthy, is involved in wound healing, and helps your body absorb iron from your food.
Vitamin C supplements are commonly used for colds. For most people, Vitamin C does not prevent colds but may slightly reduce their severity and duration. Vitamin C is generally considered safe except when taken in high doses. Most people won’t experience any side effects if vitamin C is taken at the manufacturer’s recommended daily doses. However, taking more than 2000 mg of vitamin C every day may cause side effects including kidney stones and digestive disturbances such as diarrhoea.
Echinacea is a flowering plant that is native to North America. It is a member of the daisy family of plants. Echinacea products vary widely, containing different Echinacea species, plant parts (e.g. stems, leaves and/or roots) and preparations (tablets or liquids) to name a few.
There is limited evidence that some Echinacea preparations may reduce the length and severity of a cold in adults. Echinacea does not normally cause side effects, but there have been reports of allergic reactions and rashes.
With all complementary medicines, it is important that you tell your health professional about all the medicines you or anyone in your care is taking — including prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines. This is because all medicines, including herbal and natural medicines, can cause side effects and may interact with other medicines. The benefits and risks of herbal and natural medicines may not have been tested.