A cure for the common cold?

sneeze.jpg

We’ve all experienced the sore, scratchy throat, the non-stop running nose, the malignant sneezing, the headache and general malaise brought on by the good old common cold. And we’ve all heard that it can’t be cured. But that doesn’t stop us from sucking on zinc lozenges, throwing back vitamin C tablets, chugging echinacea tea and gobbling all manner of over-the-counter medications.

Problem is that none of these things really work. There are a lot of anecdotal reports about all the above ‘treatments’ working to reduce the severity and duration of a cold, but when tested under the same stringent double-blind, placebo-controlled methods used to vet drugs, they fall short. Most don’t work any better than placebo. And, alas, a trip to your local doctor won’t help you much either because the common cold is caused by a virus, and as we all know, there aren’t really any medications including antibiotics that kill viruses. So we are left in despair to wait it out until our own immune system rallies and overcomes the evil virus causing our misery.

But there is a product on the shelves of most health food stores and natural food groceries that really does work. However, most people don’t know about it, and when they do see it mixed in with all the other cold medicines, they don’t know how different it really is.

pelargonium-sidoides.jpgThe product is umckaloabo, an extract from the African plant Pelargonium sidoides. The P sidoides extract is used extensively in Europe, especially in Germany, to treat colds and other respiratory illnesses. And the product is not used on a wing and a prayer like our OTC remedies are, it is used based on sound science. There have been multiple double-blind, placebo-controlled studies showing that umckaloabo works significantly better than placebo to treat bronchitis. (1-3) P. Sidoides works in several ways to restore health: it has some direct antibacterial and antiviral activity, but it works primarily by increasing the activity of the immune system and by releasing interferon, a potent antiviral substance.(4)

Since there has been so much scientific data showing the efficacy of the P sidoides extract in treating bronchitis, a group of researchers in Ukraine decided to test it to see if it would reduce the duration and severity of the common cold. A multicenter, prospective, double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial was designed and 207 patients recruited. All patients were tested for strep to ensure that their symptoms didn’t have a bacterial cause.

The primary endpoint of the study was the reduction in severity as measured by the Cold Intensity Score (CIS), which is a scale derived from the sum of scores for 10 cold-related symptoms: sore throat, nasal drainage, nasal congestion, scratchy throat, sneezing, cough, headache, muscle aches, hoarseness and fever. At the start of the study the CIS was the same in both the treatment and placebo groups. After fie days the CIS had decreased by 10.4 in the treatment group and only 5.6 in the placebo group.

A secondary endpoint of the trial was the duration of symptoms. The number of patients cured (a CIS less than or equal to 1) by day 10 was 78.8 percent in the treatment group as compared to 31.4 percent in the placebo group. Days absent from work were less in the placebo group as were the number of days with less than 100 percent usual activity level.

In scientific terms from the abstract:

From baseline to day five, the mean SSID improved by 14.6 ± 5.3 points in the EPs group compared with 7.6 ± 7.5 points in the placebo group. This difference was statistically significant (P < .0001). The mean CIS decreased by 10.4 ± 3.0 points and 5.6 ± 4.3 points in EPs and placebo-treated patients, respectively. After 10 days, 78.8% versus 31.4% in the EPs versus placebo group were clinically cured (CIS equals zero points or complete resolution of all but a maximum of one cold symptom; P < .0001). The mean duration of inability to work was significantly lower in the EPs treatment group (6.9 ± 1.8 days) than in the placebo group (8.2 ± 2.1 days; P = .0003). Treatment outcome (rates of complete recovery or major improvement from disease [integrative medicine outcomes scale]) was assessed better in the EPs treatment group than in the placebo group by both the investigator and the patient on day five (P < .0001). Adverse events occurred in three of 103 patients (2.9%), with two of 52 (3.8%) and one of 51 (2.0%) patients in the EPs and placebo group, respectively. All adverse events were assessed as nonserious. At the end of treatment, all patients (100%) in the active treatment group judged the subjective tolerability of EPs as good or very good.

A couple of caveats. First, this is only one study. But it is a good one using the gold-standard methodology of drug testing. But even one positive study is more than exists for most of the OTC cold remedies. And there are multiple good studies showing P. sidiodes efficacy in the treatment of bronchitis, most of which is viral, so there is some corroboration for its efficacy in viral treatment. Second, the patients in this study were all started on P. sidoides extract within 48 hours of the start of their symptoms. All bets are off if you don’t start taking it until four or five days into your cold.

Why the bizarre name umckaloabo? Supposedly it is a combination of terms derived from the Zulu words for the symptoms of lung disease and breast pain. Click here (then click on page 790-792) to read the full text of the strange story of the discovery of umckaloabo, which was first used to treat tuberculosis. You will notice that the turn-of-the-20th-century Brits were about as open minded concerning herbal treatments as is the mainstream today.

If you live in Europe, you’re probably already familiar with this product. If not, it is marketed there as Umckaloabo by ISO-Arzneimittel. There are a couple of sources in the United States. Nature’s Way sells several preparations under the name Umcka ColdCare, which is found in most health food stores and natural groceries. Umcka ColdCare comes in a syrup form and in a powder that makes a hot drink.

umcka-coldcare.jpg

Another distributor is African Red Tea, which sells a syrup. (Disclosure: I have no financial interest or affiliation with either of these companies.)

In my opinion, the best way to prevent colds is to maintain good health and an adequate level of vitamin D throughout the year. That’s what I try to do. But if I succumb, I make a run for the umckaloabo.

  1. Matthys H, Heger M (2007) Treatment of acute bronchitis with a liquid herbal drug preparation from Pelargonium sidoides (EPs 7630): A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled mulitcentre study. Curr Med Res Opinion 23:323-331.
  2. Chuchalin AG et al (2005) Treatment of acute brochitis in adults with a Pelargonium sidoides preparation (EPs 7630): A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Explore (NY) 1:437-445.
  3. Mathys H et al (2003) Efficacy and safety of an extract of Pelargonium sidoides (EPs 7630) in adults with acute bronchitis: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Phytomedicine 10(Supl 4):7-17.
  4. Kolodziej J, Kiderlen AF (2007) In vitro evaluation of antibacterial and immunomodulatory activities of Pelargonium reniforme, Pelargonium sidoides and the related herbal preparation EPs 7630. Phytomedicine 14(suppl1):18-26.

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37 thoughts on “A cure for the common cold?

  1. Dear Mike,

    you said Umckaloabo “works primarily by increasing the activity of the immune system” and that in your opinion, “the best way to prevent colds is to maintain good health and an adequate level of vitamin D throughout the year”.

    But I’ve read that, in Dr. Trevor Marshall’s opinion, Vitamin D acts as an immunosuppressive drug.

    So now I’m a bit confused… is it better to have a stronger or a weaker immune system?

    And what about cancer? How is it possible for Vitamin D to be an immunosuppressive drug and simultaneously to be useful against cancer?

    I’ve always thought that, in a battle against cancer, it was a fundamental goal to keep immune system at maximum strength. But maybe I was wrong.

    I think your thought about Marshall’s point of view to be very urgent.

    Thanks a lot.

    Marco

    Hey Marco–

    I’ve got to do a post about the Trevor Marshall deal someday. Marshall published one paper that was a speculative paper in a not particularly prestigious journal that publishes speculative papers. He didn’t offer up a study – he simply offered up opinion. Opposing this one paper in a lesser journal is a virtual mountain of evidence that vitamin D actually stimulates the innate immune system. Nowhere – other than in the Marshall paper – have I ever read that it suppresses it. I’ve corresponded with Michael Holick on this subject, and he assures me that the Marshall idea is bogus. And he sent me a number of recent papers documenting the enhanced immune effects of vitamin D. So I tend to go with the evidence and not the speculation.

    Cheers–

    MRE

  2. I’ll have to look for this for the rest of the family. I have done incredibly well this winter—I started taking 5000 iu’s of Vit. D in November and haven’t been sick once. Not even when the whole family was down with a flu-like virus. So, for those who aren’t on the D regimen, this would be great!

  3. Thanks for an entertaining and informative post, Dr. Eades. I was wondering one thing, about your RSS feed. The RSS items used to contain the full posts, but lately it’s just the beginning of the posts. Why the change?

    I’m working on getting the full feed back. I don’t know what happened to mess it up in the first place.

  4. Great tip! I’ll have to look for it.

    On another topic, I just read this article about a study published in the March 7, 2007 edition of JAMA. You may have already read the study but here is the link for the article.

    http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2007/03/low_carb_diets.html

    Slowly but surely low carb is creeping into main stream medicine.

    And yet another subject…
    Would you or MD consider posting something on perimenopause/menopause and effective treatment that includes low carb? I can’t seem to find good science based articles about how to reduce mood swings and other emotional issues related to changing hormone levels. Also, is there anything related to cholesterol levels and hormone levels during this time of a woman’s life, particularly low cholesterol levels?

    Reliving my teenage years again… Blech!

    I posted on the JAMA study when it came out.

    And I posted on a book about the treatment of menopause and perimenopause as well. Hope it helps.

    Cheers–

    MRE

  5. Interesting Mike,

    Two things – I have had one not very serious cold in five years of low carbing for which I credit the associated lift in immune function of the diet first before any supplements (I’ve only been taking Vit D for the past year or so) – but even before I saw the light … 10 days for a cold? I can’t say I remember just a common cold lasting that long but in this study (whilst it demonstrates a clear benefit for the drug over the placebo there are still quite a few brave volunteers still suffering! I think if I took it and I was still sick a week later I wouldn’t buy it again!

    Oh yes, and of course it is not marketed here anyway … but you can buy the seeds – http://cgi.ebay.com.au/5-Umckaloabo-Pelargonium-sidoides-seeds_W0QQitemZ130207701981QQihZ003QQcategoryZ42213QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem
    – any advice as to how to use the plant? 😉 (I’m assuming smoking it is not right 🙂 )

    Cheers,

    Malcolm

    Hey Malcolm–

    I haven’t a clue how to use the plants or to make an extract. Sorry.

    And, yes, the time taken for relief seems long. But the researchers were looking at a full recovery – not just semi-sort-of feeling better. When I get a cold, it seems that even when I’m feeling great in all other respects, I still have a cough for several more days. And, we’re looking at the mean here as well – perhaps many of the subjects got significantly quicker relief but the average was influenced by a few that took forever to get better.

    Cheers–

    MRE

  6. I definitely agree with you about vitamin D. After having my blood tested several times and upping my dosage repeatedly this long Chicago winter, I am now at the mid-high end of the 45-65ng/ml ‘optimal’ D3 range, by taking 6000 units every day (in the morning with a fatty snack.) My doctor gave me a pretty funny look when I told him how much I was taking to achieve that level; it was all new to him.

    But you know what? I haven’t had one serious cold or flu this entire season. And it’s been a pretty rough season for most of Chicago. My wife takes a little convincing before she’ll consistently take anything, but now that she’s endured her third illness of the season while I remained completely unaffected, I think she’s finally on board with the D.

    It’s great to hear about this Umckaloabo (which in my brain is officially called Umlockaboo.) I’ve always wished there were a decent anti-viral agent available when I was sick. In the past I’ve had pretty okay results with supplements containing garlic & oregano oil and things like that, but I’ll definitely be giving this a go if I ever get sick again 😉

    Also, for those of us in the states, it looks like swansonvitamins.com–which I buy almost all of my supplements from on account of overall cheapness and goodness–carries the full line of umcka drops & syrups.

    Umlockaboo is much easier to pronounce and remember. Maybe I’ll go with it too.

    Cheers–

    MRE

  7. Never mind. My link give the answer;

    “The alcoholic extract of the root …”

    Now you’re talking!

    Presumably the placebo would also have had to be alcoholic as I have found non umckaloabo laced infusions to be of assistance in dealing with many of those symptoms. 😉

    Cheers,

    Malcolm

  8. Actually, one more thing: now that I look at the Umcka products more carefully, I see that the doses of Umcka are homeopathic. Were the doses used in the clinical trial also homeopathic?

    I’ve never seen anything homeopathic actually be shown to work before…

    Actually it’s a 1X dilution, which is far from homeopathic. And there have been double-blind, placebo-controlled studies showing that homeopathy does work. But, again, a a 1X dilution is far from homeopathic.

  9. Is it possible that straight sugar pills are actually an effective (though not as effective as umacolabro)? Might that be the reason that Zinc and C and all the other remedies don’t work any better than placebo?

    Just askin.

    Yep, there is a definite ‘placebo effect’ for both the good and the bad. Whenever you see studies using a placebo control, you always find a certain percentage of the placebo users who have side effects (some of them serious), and the placebo users tend to experience a ‘cure’ as well. This is why it’s so important to test the actual studied substance against a placebo because if you just study it alone you will almost always find that it works because of the placebo effect. It’s only when it’s compared to an actual placebo that you can get meaningful data.

  10. For those with one testicle and one breast, the only convincing evidence is whether or not it bears the certification: “As seen on CNN”, “…Fox News” or “…Oprah”.

    Sigh.

  11. “The mean duration of inability to work was significantly lower in the EPs treatment group (6.9 ± 1.8 days) than in the placebo group (8.2 ± 2.1 days; P = .0003)”

    Sorry, but 7 days vs. 8 days to recovery is not enough to get me to purchase the product. The difference may be statistically significant, but you’re still sick for about a week either way.

    Dave

    True, but we’re talking until total recovery. As I mentioned in a previous comment, whenever I get a cold (not often, fortunately) I end up pretty much recovering within a few days but I have a cough that hangs on for a while. And we’re talking ‘mean’ here, which probably means that many people got better much, much more quickly.

  12. Dear Dr. Mike,

    Have you looked into elderberry extract, i.e. Sambucol? I believe elderberry has the same anti-viral properties as the unpronounceable thingie.

    Regards,

    Laurel

    But does it have the double-blind, placebo-controlled studies to prove it?

  13. I use a product called Immunextra which is derived from pinecones. I have been taking it for 18 months and have only had one cold. Before taking this product would have around four colds per year lasting 2-3 weeks. Supposedly pine bark has been used since 500 A.D. by the Greeks and is prevalent in modern day Japan. The product was developed by Tampa Bay Research Institute a non-profit, http://www.tbri.org. Here is a link to some scientific info. http://www.immunextra.com/ScientificPapers.aspx

  14. In my unscientific experience, the popular remedies you cited do work, but only if applied at the very first hint of an incipient cold (and best accompanied by a long nap). None of the studies I’ve seen emphasizes the critical first couple of hours. This kind of makes sense if you imagine exponential growth curves of both the virus and the antibodies. A tiny boost to the antibodies at that point could put them ahead and make all the difference in suppressing exponential growth of the virus.

  15. re: elderberry

    There’s some pretty-good science to back up claims that it’s an effective flu-fighter.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15080016?ordinalpos=4&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9395631?ordinalpos=8&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

    BTW, Sambucol is sold by the same distributor (in the USA) as Umcka (Nature’s Way). And, they’re both foreign-made products. Sambucol was developed by an Israeli scientist.

    Hmmm. I’ll have to take a look. Thanks.

  16. [i]Actually it’s a 1X dilution, which is far from homeopathic. [b]And there have been double-blind, placebo-controlled studies showing that homeopathy does work.[/b] But, again, a a 1X dilution is far from homeopathic.[/i]

    Double-blind, placebo controlled studies that homeopathy works? I was under the distinct impression that that claim was a myth, never published anywhere ‘reputable.’ I still remember the ‘outrage’ from all of the usual ‘debunkers’ when homeopathy started to achieve some recognition and funding.

    Do you have any decent references for further research? Most of what I find on homeopathy is polarized between the skeptic’s sites and those trying to sell you something.

    British Medical Journal. 2000 Aug 19-26;321(7259):471-6.

    Lancet. 1994 Dec 10;344(8937):1601-6

    Lancet. 1986 Oct 18;2(8512):881-6.

    This should get you started.

  17. I don’t mean to be rude but how do I know this stuff I’ve never heard of before is safe?

    You don’t. You have to rely on the fact that it’s been in use for over a century without major problems and our own FDA has deemed it safe or it wouldn’t be allowed in OTC medications.

  18. Hello,

    since 2006 umckaloabo is no longer permitted for subscription/treatment against angina tonsillaris, rhinopharyngitis and Sinusitis in Germany(1). The only indication persists for acute bronchitis. A sufficient therapeutical benefit has not been proven in common dosage(2). Instead, umckaloabo might threaten liverfunction (3, 4).

    Regards,
    guzolany

    (1) http://www.arznei-telegramm.de/html/2006_10/0610093_03.html
    (2) http://www.arznei-telegramm.de/html/2003_03/0303028_02.html
    (3) http://www.arznei-telegramm.de/html/2006_06/0606058_01.html
    (4) http://www.arznei-telegramm.de/html/2006_04/0604041_04.html

    “Arznei-Telegramm” is a printed newsletter of independent pharmacists and physicians, who critically observe the pharmaceutical industry and market in Germany.

    Interesting. It would help if I could read German.

  19. Next time you start getting a scratchy throat, try putting a few drops of hydrogen peroxide in your ear and lie on your side for five minutes. Drain with a tissue and then do the other side. Repeat 2 or 3 times at roughly 5 hour intervals. Your syptoms should dissappear. I haven’t had a cold or flu successfully take hold since I started doing this, about 3 years.

    What could be the mechanism for this treatment to work? If anyone else tries it, let me know if it was successful.

  20. Yes, Dr. Eades. There is a cure and a preventive for the cold, flu and pneumonia viruses, and it’s right here in the US…ELDERBERRY. Clinical Studies on PubMed, prove that sambucal, the active ingredient in elderberry, kills those viruses and prevents infection. I drink elderberry tea and give my sons the jelly on toast. Since I found out this information from Dr. D’Adamo, my sons and I have not been sick in 3 years. But, then Big Pharma can’t make any money on it, can they?

  21. Sorry, but 7 days vs. 8 days to recovery is not enough to get me to purchase the product. The difference may be statistically significant, but you’re still sick for about a week either way.

    @David Matthews

    I completely agree. My feeling is that umckaloabo will be shown to be ineffective in the long-run. In fact, with your interpretation of the data, it may already well be.

    @Dr. Mike

    I think you are guilty of a little mistaken statistical understanding. For example:

    …we’re looking at the mean here as well – perhaps many of the subjects got significantly quicker relief but the average was influenced by a few that took forever to get better.

    And we’re talking ‘mean’ here, which probably means that many people got better much, much more quickly.

    It may be true that the distribution was spread out and/or lumpy —- but it could well be that the mean was a meaningful mean. We don’t know, we’d have to see the distribution.

    You can see the distribution in the abstract, or at least two standard deviations of it.

    What I look for in a medical study is a significant difference between treatment and placebo to determine effectiveness of the treatment. The way medical studies are done makes it unwise to look at the actual results (days to cure, in this case) because they almost always show the treatment regimen to be less effective than it really is in practice.

    We developed a weight-loss supplement a few years back that we used with out patients. Most of them had rave reviews. We gave it to friends and family, almost all of whom had great results with it. We then hired a clinical testing facility (at great expense) to test it in a double-blind, placebo-controlled fashion. The director of the facility told us not to get our hopes up because he had never really seen a natural weight-loss supplement (other than those containing ephedra) that really worked. After the trial was over the and code was unlocked to the study patients could be separated from the control patients, he was stunned. He called us to tell us that he had never seen results anywhere near these with anything he had ever tested, including drugs. But looking at the actual numbers wasn’t all that impressive. The people on our supplement lost almost twice as much as the people on the placebo (both groups were on low-carb diets), but the difference was just a few pounds. I dug up studies of the same length on sibutramine (Meridia) and orlistat (Xenecal), the two prescription weight-loss medications available at the time and found that our supplement was twice as effective as sibutramine and seven times more effective than orlistat over a six-week study. Yet the numbers weren’t all that impressive.

  22. Off topic, but have you read this article:

    ” Why Low-Carb Diets Must Be High-Fat, Not High-Protein” by John Yudkin.

    Excerpt:

    “There is one simple reason: While the body can use protein as an energy source in an emergency, it is not at all healthy to use this method in the long term. All carbs are made up of just three elements: carbon, hydrogen and. oxygen. All fats are also made of the same three elements. Proteins, however, also contain nitrogen and other elements. When proteins are used to provide energy, these must be got rid of in some way. This is not only wasteful, it can put a strain on the body, particularly on the liver and kidneys.”

    I was curious as to your opinion.

    I’ve read the article, but I’m not sure John Yudkin wrote it. At least not the John Yudkin of low-carb diet fame. In my opinion there are a number of errors in the article, not the least of which is the comment about protein putting a strain on the liver and kidneys. There are reasons too numerous to go into in the answer to a comment about why protein is good as part of a low-carb diet for someone trying to lose weight. For maintenance purposes I agree that the majority of the calories should come from fat, but a weight loss diet is a different situation entirely. I probably should post on this issue sometime in the future.

  23. Dr. Eades: “Opposing this one paper in a lesser journal is a virtual mountain of evidence that vitamin D actually stimulates the innate immune system. Nowhere – other than in the Marshall paper – have I ever read that it suppresses it.”

    Maybe not Vitamin D by itself, but if you take omega-3 oils to get Vitamin D, those are clearly shown to suppress the immune system quite severely, along with other PUFAs. So, it would be better IMO to get Vitamin D from pork leaf fat (8% PUFAs) or just normal pork fat (12% PUFAs). Maybe shellfish. The best way to get Vitamin D is sunlight. I would approach the fish oils very carefully and only use 1/5 to 1/2 teaspoon per day of high-vitamin fermented cod liver oil like Blue Ice. Not the highly processed “molecularly distilled” varities.

  24. Another comment: I never get colds any more. I never get flu. Those are caused by poor diet, including things like artificial sweeteners, PUFA Oils, margarine, soy, and things like that. The cure for the common cold is avoiding the modern “Western” diet, IMO. Primitive people didn’t get sick nearly as often as people today, because they didn’t eat highly processed devitalized and nutrient-deficient foods. They didn’t eat chemicals, like sucralose and aspartame, either. They ate real food or things they could make with simple technology. Avoid all aspects of the modern “convenience food” diet and health will improve vastly.

  25. Whenever I read about treatments for viral infections my first though is always to wonder if there is efficact against more serious viruses such as West Nile virus and the various enterovirii and flavivirri thought to be responsible for brain damage, chronic fatigue syndrome, etc.

    E.g. how would efficacy compare with, say , Pleconaril?

    I doubt that its efficacy would be anywhere near that of Pleconaril. But who wants to take Pleconaril for the common cold?

  26. The idea behind the hydrogen peroxide treatment is that it kills the virus or microbe in the inner ear where it typically enters the body and begins the process of breeding. Before it really gets going!

    The viruses that cause the common cold typically enter through the nose. And if hydrogen peroxide bubbles out in the ear canal that doesn’t mean that it makes it through the tympanic membrane (eardrum) into the middle ear where it could reach any viruses there. It would be interesting to see this treatment studied in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.

  27. Hydrogen peroxide does work. I’ve tried it once and the treatment after 5 hours was not even necessary because all signs of the flu were gone.

    As long as there are bubbles in the ear after application, it means it’s working on the pathogens. If there are no bubbles at the next application, it means the pathogens are dead.

    But I also agree that a healthy diet (not much sugar and not much carbs in general, plus eating whole foods as opposed to man made foods, plus eating raw most of the stuff that can be eaten raw) prevents colds and flus by itself. I haven’t had a cold in 3 years, and I’ve only known about the peroxide thing for 6 months.

  28. It’s interesting that my husband, who does eat carbs like bread and rice and uses artificial sweeteners, has had three colds this winter while I, the one who basically eats meat, eggs and fat have had none. Hmm …

  29. Very interesting.

    However, one question; I was under the impression a significant amount of the “cold and flu-like” symptoms are actually just the symptoms of immune system activation in the first place. This is why cold and flu symptoms are ubiquitous to all illnesses and conditions. It is widely responsible for the myth that inactivated flu vaccines can make you sick (because brief cold and flu-like symptoms are triggered by the vaccine working).

    Given that the immune system is what causes many of the signs and symptoms of a virus infection, I have to wonder if this substance trades duration for severity. If the substance increases the immune response, it makes sense to conclude that one might feel slightly MORE run down, albeit for a slightly shorter amount of time. The immune factors are making you feel sick, this plant just makes you make more of them in a shorter amount of time to knock it out quicker.

    Reading the abstract it seems as if only the presence or absence of symptoms were measured, i.e. the duration of time of illness. Do you know if the study also measured extent of symptoms (e.g. a 1 to 5 scale of “not tired at all” vs “very tired”)?

    If severity of symptoms were not measured, this is something one might want to consider before using the product. Personally I’m not sure if it is better to feel a little less functional (but for a shorter amount of time) than it is to feel less sick but have the sickness last a day less.

    No, the severity of symptoms was measured. That’s what the Cold Intensity Score (CIS) is, a measure of the intensity (or severity) of ten different symptoms of the common cold. Umcka definitely reduced the severity and the duration.

  30. While low-carbing, a noticed benefit is less severe colds and getting them less. I get 20% of the colds that my kids get and they are never bad like they used to be.

  31. “…when tested under the same stringent double-blind, placebo-controlled methods”

    I have yet to see a double-blind vitamin C test which uses the protocol suggested by Linus Pauling. This protocol is: at the first detection of cold symptoms, take 1000 mg of vitamin C. Take 1000 mg every hour until symptoms begin to decrease. If they increase, take more. This protocol was suggested by Pauling back in the ’70’s.

    How can vitamin C be discounted by the tests which you reference if they do not follow the protocol?

    A couple of Cochrane reviews have found no evidence that vitamin C works to prevent or alleviate symptoms of the common cold. I don’t know if the specific regimen Pauling suggested was tested or not but Cochrane reviews evaluate most of the literature out there and select the most rigorously done for inclusion. If Pauling’s protocol was tested and found wanting, it wouldn’t be long before someone came along and suggested that the dosages were too low, that it should have been 2000 mg at the start of symptoms, then 2000 mg every hour until symptoms lessen. Then someone would say ‘How can you say vitamin C doesn’t work when this regimen hasn’t been tested?’ This could go on ad infinitum.

    See:

    Douglas RM et al. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2004; (4):CD000980.

    Click here for another review by the same authors.

  32. Funny I’m just now seeing this after suffering through a particularly bad cold. Incidentally, I’d been eating poorly so my poor immune system was too weak to fight off the bugger. Thanks for the heads up on this for next time!

    It’s amazing how effective some of those herbal remedies at the health food store can be. Speaking of curative supplements, have you ever blogged about 5-htp? Nothing has ever helped my initial ketosis headache/sleeplessness like it. No Excedrin required!

    I don’t think I’ve blogged about 5-HTP, but it’s good stuff. I’ve never used it for headaches, though. I’ve mainly used it for sleep and to help some patients with carb cravings late in the day.

  33. Have you read anything by Aajonus Vonderplanitz? He is a raw meat eater, and contends that raw meat is the ideal food.

    Nope, I don’t know of him. But I do agree with him. Sort of. I think cooked meat might be a little better food than raw meat, but they’re close contenders.

  34. I’ve looked at some of the Cochrane review on vit C and found it wanting. As I said before, there has been no double blind study that even comes close to what Pauling suggested. So I reject your pessimism.

    This issue of the LPI Newsletter mentions a Japanese study which lasted 5 years and found a 60 percent reduction in the incidence of colds. I don’t think the verdict has been conclusively decided on vitamin C and the common cold.

    I agree that it hasn’t been conclusively decided. But it also hasn’t been conclusively shown to be preventative either. So, unlike with Umcka, the claim that vitamin C prevents the cold can’t be claimed.

  35. I recently did a little searching around on hydrogen peroxide for a friend who had read about its use as a natural health remedy. From what I can tell, most of the tips can be traced to one or more versions of internet circulated lists, usually posted verbatim. There is a definite tinge of hysteria on these websites, with regular claims that “they” don’t want you to know this information. Many of the sites are selling highly concentrated H2O2. The claims range from curing colds to curing cancer. There are even several documented deaths from intravenous H2O2 treatment. There is no specific refutation of the H2O2 in the ears, but it is part of the circulating lists and that makes it particularly suspect, in my opinion. The repetition of the (probably harmless) ear drop treatment also lends credibility to the much more dangerous suggestions of ingesting or injecting H2O2, which is far more insidious. You can see more at these websites (or simply google “scam hydrogen peroxide):

    http://www.snopes.com/medical/homecure/peroxide.asp
    http://www.quackwatch.com/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/Cancer/oxygen.html
    http://health.yahoo.com/experts/healthnews/78/hydrogen-peroxide-a-warning-and-a-dangerous-scam/
    http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/h/hydrogen-peroxide.htm

    The placebo effect lives on…

    Thanks for the links.