Nobody wants to get stuck with a cold, so when you hear that you can take something simple and inexpensive to prevent a week's worth of misery, why not jump at it? Echinacea and zinc are much buzzed-about when it comes to preventing or shortening the duration of colds, but do they really work?
When it comes to zinc, hundreds of studies have been conducted, including one in 2000, which found that taking zinc lozenges during a cold produced "modest" benefits. A more recent study published by Stanford Medical School analyzed data from 14 previous studies and reported that the effectiveness of using zinc to treat a cold "has yet to be established." Hmm.
Well, what about echinacea? To find out
Over the summer, a large study published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal said that taking echinacea can reduce your risk of catching a cold by 58 percent. This contradicted an earlier study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which said that echinacea didn't help at all. It's tough to determine echinacea's effectiveness, because so many parts of the plant are used to make tinctures, teas, and pills. More research definitely needs to be done to figure out what part of the plant is helpful.
Fit's Tips: The bottom line is that there really is no consistent opinion about whether zinc or echinacea really benefits you when it comes to colds. During this season of sickness, instead of wasting money on things that possibly help, stick to doing things that are proven to work. Be sure to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, get your daily supply of vitamin C (75 mg), and get plenty of rest each night. This will help to keep your immune system strong, so if your body does come in contact with germs, it can fight them off so you don't get sick.