Harvard Men's Health Watch

'Natural' cold relief

Q. I always catch colds during the winter and they last more than a week. I heard that zinc and echinacea help to shorten colds. Should I try them?

A. As cold and flu season starts to ramp up this month, we're reminded how common the "common cold" truly is. The average adult experiences two to four colds per year, with symptoms that can linger seven to 10 days. Most colds get better without treatment, but many people searching for a shorter illness have turned to two "natural" therapies: echinacea and zinc.

Echinacea: Laboratory studies have shown that substances in the echinacea flower and roots activate immune cells and block inflammation. This has spurred excitement about echinacea's potential to shorten the duration of the common cold.

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