Colds are a leading reason for visiting a doctor and for missing school or work. To prevent or treat colds some people turn to complementary health approaches such as herbs, vitamins, and minerals. This issue provides information on “what the science says” about some of these practices for the common cold, including zinc, vitamin C, echinacea, probiotics, nasal saline irrigation, buckwheat honey, geranium extract, garlic, and elderberry.
What the Science Says:
The Common Cold and Complementary Health Approaches
Modality and Summary of Current Research
- Vitamin C
- Saline Nasal Irrigation
- Honey (Buckwheat)
- Geranium Extract
Oral zinc lozenges may reduce the duration of the common cold when started within 24 hours of initial symptoms and taken for a time period of less than 2 weeks. Intranasal zinc has been linked to a severe side effect (anosmia or loss of smell) and should not be used.
- Common Cold and Complementary Health Approaches—Systematic Reviews/Reviews/Meta-analyses (PubMed®)
- Common Cold and Complementary Health Approaches—Randomized Controlled Trials (PubMed®)
Information for Your Patients
- Flu and Colds: In Depth
- Vitamin C (ODS)
- Using Dietary Supplements Wisely
- 5 Tips: Natural Products for the Flu and Colds: What Does the Science Say?
- Zinc (ODS)
NCCIH Clinical Digest is a service of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, NIH, DHHS. NCCIH Clinical Digest, a monthly e-newsletter, offers evidence-based information on complementary health approaches, including scientific literature searches, summaries of NCCIH-funded research, fact sheets for patients, and more.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is dedicated to exploring complementary health products and practices in the context of rigorous science, training complementary health researchers, and disseminating authoritative information to the public and professionals. For additional information, call NCCIH’s Clearinghouse toll-free at 1-888-644-6226, or visit the NCCIH website at nccih.nih.gov. NCCIH is 1 of 27 institutes and centers at the National Institutes of Health, the Federal focal point for medical research in the United States.
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