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Can Fam Physician. 2011 Jan;57(1):31-6.

Complementary and alternative medicine for prevention and treatment of the common cold.

Author information

  • 1Seekers Centre for Integrative Medicine, Ottawa, ON. richard@seekerscentre.com

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To review the evidence supporting complementary and alternative medicine approaches to treatment and prevention of the common cold in adults.

QUALITY OF EVIDENCE:

MEDLINE, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews were searched from January 1966 to September 2009 combining the key words common cold or influenza with echinacea, garlic, ginseng, probiotics, vitamin C, and zinc. Clinical trials and prospective studies were included.

MAIN MESSAGE:

For prevention, vitamin C demonstrated benefit in a large meta-analysis, with possibly increased benefit in patients subjected to cold stress. There is inconsistent evidence for Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) and North American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius). Allicin was highly effective in 1 small trial. For treatment, Echinacea purpurea is the most consistently useful variety; it was effective in 5 of 6 trials. Zinc lozenges were effective in 5 of 9 trials, likely owing to dose and formulation issues. Overall, the evidence suggests no benefit from probiotics for prevention or treatment of the common cold.

CONCLUSION:

Vitamin C can be recommended to Canadian patients for prevention of the common cold. There is moderate evidence supporting the use of Echinacea purpurea and zinc lozenges for treatment. Ginseng and allicin warrant further research.

PMID:
21322286
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3024156
Free PMC Article
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