In spite of all the wonderful advances in modern medicine, the common cold still has the ability to lay many people out flat. Colds are viral and antibiotics are not effective against them; the best treatment for viral infections still remains rest and pushing fluids. However, it has been shown that regular supplementation with ginseng can both reduce the chance of catching a cold and shorten the cold’s duration once it has been contracted.
Researchers from the University of Alberta ran their study from November to February, the peak of the cold season, on 323 otherwise healthy adults. The intervention group was given 200mg of American ginseng daily, and it was found that in comparison with the control group (who had received placebos), this cohort has a 13% less chance of catching the a cold. It was also found that, of those who took ginseng and still caught a cold, there were fewer overall symptoms traditionally associated with the cold virus, including pain, sinus congestion and nasal drainage.
Interpretation of the Research
While researchers maintain that the health benefits of ginseng needed to be delved into more deeply to gain a better understanding of why this supplement is so effective, there are some preliminary theories. One is that ginseng is rich in complex carbohydrates called polysaccharides. These compounds have been linked to heightened response in the immune system.
Ginseng may only just be coming into its own in the West, but Ayurvedic medicine, practiced in Asia for centuries, has been treating patients with ginseng for a variety of physical ailments and it has long been known as a potent general tonic. Chinese medicine, too, has prescribed it in practice to strengthen the body against stress and fatigue.
What to Look for when Purchasing Ginseng
When purchasing ginseng, the most important thing is to purchase an organic product so that one knows for sure that it has not been contaminated by pesticides or other harsh chemicals. Many practitioners also recommend that, rather than buying commercially available supplements — which either lack sufficient amounts of ginseng or can be contaminated with heavy metals like lead– it is better to make a decoction at home.
How to Make a Ginseng Decoction
To make a decoction of ginseng, place a medium-sized ginseng root in a pot of boil water and let simmer for half to three quarters of an hour. Fill the pot again and boil the same ginseng root once more, then combine the first and second batches of the decoction. Sweeten with honey to taste. It can be safely stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.
So, while there yet remains no cure for the common cold, ginseng certainly comes close. A decoction of this potent root can certainly reduce the chance of catching a cold to begin with and, if an infection does occur, of at least shortening its duration.
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