Catch Fewer Colds This Year

Find out what really works and what probably doesn’t.

Monica Reinagel, M.S.,L.D./N
4-minute read
Episode #15

Echinacea: Save It for When You Need It

Echinacea is a popular herbal supplement that many people take on a daily basis because they’ve heard that it boosts the immune system. Echinacea does rev up your immune response but it is not a good idea to take it for longer than a few weeks at a time. For one thing, it seems to lose its effectiveness with extended use. There are also concerns that long-term use of Echinacea can suppress other aspects of immune function.

So, unlike vitamin C, which works best when you take it every day, you’re better off saving your Echinacea for when you really need it. Use Echinacea to bolster your defenses during times when you’re particularly vulnerable to infection. These include times of unusual stress, periods when colds are going around your family or workplace, or anytime when you’ll be in close contact with a lot of new people, such as travel or family visits. But after six or eight weeks at most, you’ll want to take a couple of weeks off.

Zinc: Not as Convincing

Zinc lozenges have become quite popular as way to treat colds. There’s no doubt that zinc is very important to a healthy immune system but the evidence for zinc as a cold remedy is very mixed. Some studies have found that zinc lozenges make colds shorter and less severe but an equal number found no benefit whatsoever.

When researchers pooled the evidence from all the studies into a single analysis, they found only weak support for zinc lozenges as a way to treat the common cold. So, it’s your call.

Using zinc lozenges as directed will put you well above the recommended maximum intake for this nutrient. You’re not going to get into trouble by using zinc lozenges for a few days to treat a cold. But over time, too much zinc will cause problems. So, if you want to use them, use them only for a few days at a time.

Next Week: Three More Ways to Prevent Colds

I’m running out of time for today’s show, so tune in next week for three more tips on how to get fewer colds this year.

Of course, if you do find yourself sick with a cold you should head over to The House Call Doctor's Quick and Dirty Tips page, where he has an entire episode devoted to treating colds.


If you have a question for me, send an email to nutrition@quickanddirtytips.com or leave me a voice mail at 206-203-1438. You can also post questions for me on Facebook or Twitter.

This is Monica Reinagel, the Nutrition Diva, with your quick and dirty tips for eating well and feeling fabulous.

Remember that these tips are not intended as medical advice. Because everyone is different, please work with your health professional to determine what’s right for you.

That’s all for today. Have a great week and remember to eat something good for me


Colds and Influenza: A Review of Diagnosis and Conventional, Botanical, and Nutritional Considerations (Alternative Medicine Review)

Foods high in vitamin C (NutritionData.com)

Woman Sneezing image courtesy of Shuttertsock