Last week I had a shocking cold. Stuffy nose, sore throat and malaise. It made me think of the countless vitamins and supplements on the market that promise to ease the symptoms of a cold, help you recover faster, and reduce your risk of catching another cold.
When it comes to the common cold (also called upper respiratory tract infections), there is no magic cure (hopefully), but some supplements can provide very minor improvements. Here’s what the latest research data says.
For the average person, take vitamin C does not reduce the number of colds you catch or the severity of your cold.
As for how long your cold lasts, some studies have looked at people taking vitamin C every day, while others have focused on participants who took it once they had developed a cold.
In 30 studies comparing the duration of colds in people who regularly took at least 200 milligrams of vitamin C daily, there was a constant reduction in the duration of cold symptoms.
However, the effect was small and equated to about half a day less in adults and half a day less in children. These types of studies also found a very minor reduction in the time it takes to miss work or school.
Of the studies where vitamin C only started to once a cold has developedthere was no difference in the duration or severity of a cold.
There are certain risks of taking vitamin C supplements. They may increase the risk kidney stones in men, and should not be taken by people with iron storage disease hemochromatosisbecause vitamin C increases the absorption of iron.
In a review of 13 Probiotic Supplement Trials which included more than 3,700 children, adults and seniors, those who took supplements were less likely to catch a cold.
Their colds were also likely to be shorter in duration and less severe, in terms of the number of days they missed school or work.
Most supplements were milk-based products like yogurt. Only three studies used powders, while two used capsules.
The quality of all probiotic studies, however, was very poor, with biases and limitations. This means that the results should be interpreted with caution.
Echinacea is a group of flowering plants commonly found in North America. Nowadays, you can buy echinacea products in the form of capsules, tablets or drops.
A review of echinacea products found that they provide no benefit in the treatment of the common cold. However, the authors indicated some Echinacea products may have a low advantage, and further research is needed.
Yes, I saved the best for last.
In a new experiment on 15 healthy adults, the researchers measured the rate of flow of the nasal mucus of the participants – our ability to break down and expel mucus to breathe more clearly. They tested how well participants’ noses ran after drinking hot water, hot chicken soup or cold water, or sucking them through a straw.
Sipping hot water or chicken soup made participants’ noses run more than cold water, but sipping chicken soup worked best. The researchers attributed this to the fact that the chicken soup stimulates the olfactory and/or taste receptors, which then increases the flow of nasal mucus.
Another study on chicken soup found that it can help fight infection and cure respiratory tract infections.
Other researchers have shown that comfort foods, such as chicken soup, can help us to feel better.