Complementary Approaches for the Cold and Flu

authordeb By authordeb, 24th Oct 2016 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Health>General Health>Cold & Flu

Many Americans prefer to use natural remedies for cold or flu symptoms instead of turning to antibiotics and over-the-counter drugs. These complimentary approaches for the cold and flu have been studied by science.

Introduction Complementary Approaches for the Cold and Flu

Each year in the United States, there are millions of cases of the common cold. Adults have an average of 2-3 colds per year, and children have even more and on average 5 to 20 percent of the US population gets the flu.
Both of these diseases are caused by viruses and have some common symptoms. They are different conditions and the flu is far more serious. Colds generally will not cause serious complications like hospitalization ear and sinus infections. The flu can make long-term medical conditions worse such as diabetes and asthma.
There are no vaccines to provide protection against the common cold but will protect you against the flu. The CDC recommends everyone six months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season. Flu vaccines are the best protection against the flu.
The use of complementary medicine continues to soar. A 2012 National Health Interview Survey found that adults who use complimentary health approaches do so to treat a specific health condition. Those who used natural product supplements did so for a wellness reason with the most common wellness reasons were for general wellness or diseases prevention.
There are several complimentary approaches used for colds and the flu. Here is a list of some of those approaches and what science says about their use.


Zinc has been used for colds such as lozenges and syrup. Oral zinc may help to treat colds, but it can cause side effects and interact with medicines. Intranasal zinc has been linked to a severe side effect and should not be used.
A 2016 study of three randomized placebo controlled trials of zinc acetate lozenges involving 199 common cold patients concluded zinc lozenges reduced the duration of the common cold
Common cold patients should be encouraged to try zinc acetate lozenges not exceeding 100 mg of elemental zinc per day for treating their colds," said Dr. Harri Hemila, author of the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology analysis.
Lozenges should be taken every 1-3 hours for 3-14 days or until symptoms are gone.

Chicken Soup

Looks like grandma was right; chicken soup does help cure the common cold.
A study in Chest conducted by researchers from the Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Section of the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska evaluated chicken soup to see if it reduces the inflammatory response in colds. The study concluded chicken soup contains anti-inflammatory properties that helps reduce the side effects of a cold. The chicken soup recipe use in study :

“Grandmas Soup”
1 5- to 6-lb stewing hen or baking chicken;
1 package of chicken wings;
3 large onions;
1 large sweet potato;
3 parsnips;
2 turnips;
11 to 12 large carrots;
5 to 6 celery stems;
1 bunch of parsley; and
salt and pepper to taste

Clean the chicken, put it in a large pot, and cover it with cold water. Bring the water to a boil. Add the chicken wings, onions, sweet potato, parsnips, turnips, and carrots. Boil about 1.5 h.
Remove fat from the surface as it accumulates. Add the parsley and celery. Cook the mixture about 45 minutes longer. Remove the chicken. The chicken is not used further for the soup. Put the vegetables in a food processor until they are chopped fine or pass through a strainer. Salt and pepper the soup to taste.


The evidence that probiotics may help to prevent colds is weak due to poorly conducted trials.
A 2015 systematic review looked at the effects of probiotics in preventing the common cold. Researchers used 13 randomized controlled trials published up to July, 2014, which involved 3.270 participants which included children and older adults.
The study found probiotics work better than a placebo in reducing the number of colds by 47 percent and duration of colds by around 1.8 days. Probiotics may slightly reduce antibiotic use and cold-related school absence. Side effects of probiotics were minor and gastrointestinal symptoms were the most common.

Vitamin C

Regardless of a large number of studies there are still mixed results about the vitamin preventing or treating a cold.
A 1999 study concluded vitamin C in mega doses administered before or after the appearance of cold and flu symptoms relieved and prevented the symptoms.
A 2007 study concluded the vitamin does not reduce the number of colds but it may be justified in people exposed to brief periods of severe physical exercise or cold environments.


In 2011 researchers found North American ginseng appears to be effective in shortening the duration of colds or acute respiratory infections in healthy adults when taken preventatively for durations of 8-16 weeks. Overall, American and Siberian ginseng collectively appear to be a reasonable remedy for cold prevention and treatment.


There is some evidence that meditation may fight the common cold and flu. A study from the University of Wisconsin –Madison Medical School department of family medicine study included 149 participants divided into three groups; meditation, exercise and control group. Those in the meditation group had only missed days of work due to the common cold or flu.

Elderberry Extract

Elderberry extract has been used for centuries when it comes to treating the cold and flu. It has been reported to have antiviral activity against influenza.
A study conducted in 2004 among 60 patients with influenza like symptoms for 48 hours or less were involved in this study. The patients who received 15ml of elderberry syrup administered four times a day for five days had seen symptom relief on average of four days earlier compared to the placebo.
Elderberry can help treat both cold and flu symptoms by reducing congestion and possibly making you sweat more.
Elderberry is available as a liquid, syrup, and tincture, as well as in capsule and lozenge forms. Dried elder flower is usually standardized to at least 0.8% flavonoids. Sambucol is standardized to 38% elderberry extract for adults and 19% for children. Sinupret contains 18 mg of elder flower.


N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) comes from the amino acid L-cysteine and has many uses as medicine.
A double-blind study of 262 participants who were mostly elderly were either given NAC at 600 milligrams twice a day or a placebo for six months.
The results showed that the participants who took the supplement had reduced one episode of the flu by 43 percent. The flu episodes where participants had to be in bed were 61 percent less than the placebo group. Only 25 percent of the supplement group developed symptoms. The study concluded that the supplement can decrease the frequency and severity of flu episodes by decreasing the number of infections that cause symptoms.

Green Tea

The University of Shizuoka, Shizuoka, Japan, conducted an observational study to determine the association between green tea consumption and the incidence of influenza infection among schoolchildren. Questionnaires were completed by 2,050 students.
Their findings suggest that consuming one to five cups of green tea daily may prevent the flu in children.


This article is informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis and treatment.
Do not stop taking any medication without asking your professional health care provider. Always alert your health care provider and/or alternative practitioner about herbs and supplements you may be taking. Certain herbs and supplements can cause an interaction with medications.
Always seek the advice of your health care provider or qualified provider with any concerns you may have about a medical condition. Never disregard medical advice from your health care provider or delay going for treatment due to something you may have read.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
U.S National Library of Medicine
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
University of Nebraska Medical Center
National Institutes of Health; National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
University of Maryland Medical Center



Alternative Medicine, Food, Herbs, Supplements, Vegetables, Vitamins

Meet the author

author avatar authordeb
Author of the Love and Laughter series
Alternative Medicine Practitioner
Freelance Health Write
Works with Media companies for interviews and articles such as Howie Mandel for Afib,

Share this page

moderator Peter B. Giblett moderated this page.
If you have any complaints about this content, please let us know


Add a comment
Can't login?