The Common Cold - Prevention is Better than Cure
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The Common Cold - Prevention is Better than Cure

The Common Cold is a virus

Despite your mother’s best efforts to prevent you going outside without a coat or leaving the house with wet hair neither situation has anything to do with catching the common cold.  In fact, you could skip out to the street dripping head to toe from a cold shower and dance a barefoot polka in the snow and you would not catch the cold unless the virus had already installed itself in the mucous membranes of your nose.

The reason the common cold is rifer in the colder months is that people congregate indoors more in the winter. In such close proximity and in warm, dry and poorly-ventilated rooms, the cold virus can easily pass from one person to the next.

Everyone knows the misery of those 7 to 10 snuffling and sneezing, headachy and light-sensitive days. No matter what remedy you take for it, you are only treating the symptoms; you are not curing the cold. The only thing that can do that is time.

Better than trying to treat the cold it is not to catch it in the first place. The ancient ones of every culture had their own ways of treating and preventing maladies. Increasingly science is finding out that the old ways worked, and the natural chemical compounds in food, flowers or herbs that are responsible for health benefits are being identified.


Called Ren Shen in China which means Man Root, the oddly anthropomorphic ginseng root is one of the most recognizable of the Chinese pharmacopoeia. In China it is used in herbal remedies relating to adrenal organs, lungs and spleen, and it is said to strengthen the immune system.

It is not only Chinese ginseng that holds healthful benefits. A randomized, double blind study held from September 2003 to April 2004 by the University of Alberta, Edmonton, found that the use of North American ginseng also appeared to have a preventative effect. It cited the chemical poly-furanosyl-pyranosyl-saccharides contained in the ginseng as the possible active ingredient and concluded “Ginseng products may be useful in preventing some viral upper respiratory infections.”

Phytochemicals and Antioxidants

Fruits and vegetables contain some chemicals which are not nutritive but do  have beneficial effects on the human body. Lycopene, which is found in tomatoes, watermelon, guava and bell peppers, amongst other red vegetables, is thought to have a link to cancer prevention. Lycopene and other phytochemicals are found in richly colored red, deep red, green and orange fruit and vegetables. These antioxidants protect the body’s cells from attack by free radicals. They shore up the immune system which makes them powerful weapons in your armoury against the common cold.

Another good source of anti-oxidants is Zinc which is found in shellfish, poultry and sea food.

Garlic (Allium Sativum)

Old wives' tales say that wearing raw garlic strung about your person is an effective way to ward off the cold virus. While it may be an effective way to discourage people from getting near enough to you to pass on their germs, if you wanted to benefit from the medicinal properties of garlic you would have to ingest it.

Taken raw, garlic is credited with all manner of powerful health benefits from fighting cancer and impotence to preventing heart disease and the common cold.

Garlic contains the anti-bacterial compound allicin but as the common cold is viral anti-bacterial agents should have no effect, so the bulb’s efficacy against the common cold is still unexplained. Nevertheless a study conducted by Dr J, by Dr P Josling of the Garlic Centre, in East Sussex, UK in 2001 supported the use of garlic as a preventative for the common cold.

Breast milk

Though it may be too late for most of us, those who are looking to protect their little ones may be interested to note that studies have indicated that those who received breast milk have a stronger resistance to upper and lower tract infections and that the effect lasts for many years after the cessation of nursing.


A double blind, placebo-controlled study sponsored by food company Danisco, and published by the American Academy of Pediatrics involved 326 healthy children between the ages of 3 to 5. There were three groups each given twice-daily supplemtsnts. One group were given daily doses of placebo, another the probiotic Lactobacillus acidophilus, and the third received Lactobacillus acidophilus in combination with Bifidobacterium animalis Bi-07. The children which received the probiotic alone or in combination with Bifidobacterium animalis showed a marked resistance to fever, coughing and other cold symptoms.

In conclusion the study commented that probiotics given daily for 6 months was a safe preventative measure against cold and flu-like symptoms in children from 3 to 5.

The probiotic drinks that you can buy in the supermarket contain some beneficial microflora but you would be better to buy probiotic supplements in your nearest heath food store to ensure quality and efficacy.


Yoghurt contains active and beneficial bacteria which may work against the cold virus and prevent it taking hold. It helps stabilize and strengthen the immune system which also means that should you catch the cold anyway, your system will be better prepared to fight off any secondary infection.

Overall a healthy, well balanced diet is the key to staying healthy and maintaining a strong immune system. The addition of ginseng, garlic, probiotics and yoghurt to your diet is not going to have any ill effects but it just may be that these ingredients alone or in combination can help you ward off the common cold. All the scientific evidence in their favour is not to be sneezed at.

© 2009 Julie Hume 

Ginseng :


Phytochemicals and Anti-Oxidants

Breast Milk


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Comments (8)

Some excellent tips on fighting off those bugs!

Ranked #2 in Flu & Cold

Thanks Jan, The map on your profile has got you near Carlisle so you should be stocking up on the Ren Shen and garlic to shore you up for the coming winter, no?

Ranked #9 in Flu & Cold

great article thank you

Ranked #21 in Flu & Cold

Another very informative article, Julie. Shame on me. I always thought one wore garlic to ward off Vampires ;-). On the other hand, I love to munch on raw garlic, onions, and hot peppers. I usually had one or two common colds every winter until I bought my home up here on Walch's Mountain. Haven't had one since.

Ranked #2 in Flu & Cold

That was the prevention method I left out, Jerry. 'Become a hermit.' I thought it may be a bit extreme. ;)

great article Julie! Keep up the good work.

Ranked #4 in Flu & Cold

Julie: This was a great articles, dispelling many myths about the common cold and offering great advice for treatments. Nice job!

I drink yoghurt from time to time. :-D