Many people wear this as a badge of pride. “I avoid taking medicine if I can help it,” they declare proudly. “I like to stay natural.” In some ways, there is something admirable about their resolve. It is a self control that many of us lack, and the desire to run to invasive medicines is not a positive trait. But this reluctance is often misplaced, for a few reasons.
Firstly, many of the medicines produced to help make you feel better from everyday ailments are made up of natural ingredients. Many of the top products will include natural ingredients that have been used for thousands of years to ward off illness. Take for instance vitamin C. This is naturally found in leafy greens, tomatoes, strawberries and citrus fruits, and is frequently used to supplement the cold and flu medicines that have helped keep you and your family well for decades. Studies have shown that a diet rich in vitamin C is modestly helpful in staving off a cold, but when it comes to fighting a cold, vitamin C is incredibly effective. Some research has shown that it can reduce the duration of a cold by 24 to 36 hours. When you’re in the thick of the common cold, every second counts.
Then, there is echinacea. It has been in use for almost 200 years, after 19th Century botanists discovered the medicinal properties. Modern science has confirmed this, showing that it can reduce the severity and length of a cold by up to 10%, though it seems to be more effective in adults than in children. Next up, there is zinc. If you are suffering from a respiratory infection, zinc (either in the lozenge or syrup form) may shorten the duration of the symptoms, particularly if you get stuck in early. Studies have also shown that zinc can be effective at warding off colds for people who took it for five months or more. However, as with all things, moderation is key. Too much zinc in your body can be detrimental to your overall health. Elderberry is also often used to combat the common cold, and is a popular choice of manufacturers of medicine to supplement the drugs. It appears to boost the immune system which blocks the virus’ ability to spread throughout your body. One study has even suggested that four tablespoons of a specific species of elderberry (Sambucol) can reduce the length of your cold by a whopping 56%. It is always worth waiting for these results to be replicated numerous times before you get too carried away, but the early signs are promising to say the least. And it is all natural.
Many cold and flu tablets will also work garlic into their products to supplement their medicinal properties. It has unique properties that affect your immune system. Sadly, it isn’t as simple as buying some thai, and hoping for the best. Overcooking garlic obliterates the enzymes, and the medicinal properties of garlic are most effective when you consume garlic raw or minced.
Your immune system can also be boosted by ginseng. This herb is grown in Asia and America and curiously, it appears to boost the efficacy of the flu vaccine. As a result, many manufacturers will use it in their cold and flu products to give you the best protection possible. All of these naturally occurring herbs and vitamins are highly effective in fighting the duration and severity of the common cold.
The second objection from the reluctant medicine takers is that the efficacy of the drug will somehow wane if they take them too frequently. They want to save paracetamol or ibuprofen for the proverbial rainy day. Let’s examine this more closely with some of the more effective pain killers.
- Paracetamol: This has been a staple of pain relief for over 50 years, and bizarrely, the exact method with which it does away with your pain isn’t exactly understood. Don’t panic, there have been countless studies that show its effectiveness, and safety. What is understood, however, is that it appears to dull the pain receptors in your brain. It doesn’t do anything to actually reduce inflammation, but it means you can’t feel anything. And that is pretty much the same thing when you’re in the thick of it. Crucially, there is no evidence that the efficacy of paracetamol declines over time. That means you can’t develop an immunity to your Codral Cold and Flu or whatever product you are relying on.
- Ibuprofen: This is the other prong to your attack on pain. Unlike paracetamol, it does work on the site of pain in your body to reduce the pain. You will find that your cold symptoms reduce significantly under the influence of ibuprofen, but it is vital that you follow the directions on the packaging. If you take ibuprofen on an empty stomach, you can develop ulcers and it can strip your stomach lining. No amount of pain relief is worth causing more pain. Like ibuprofen, there is no evidence to suggest that your body develops an immunity due to prolonged exposure.
- Phenylephrine Hydrochloride: This is that blessed ingredient in Codral Cold and Flu that helps to unblock a clogged nose. It is entirely safe, highly effective and does not become less effective over time.
The reality is, most medicines sold over the counter don’t become less effective over time, and a vast majority contain natural ingredients that have been a mainstay for hundreds (if not thousands) of years. The only medicines that can really mess you around or become less effective are the kind that are being prescribed. Prolonged use of antibiotics can have adverse health effects. They obliterate the good bacteria in your microbiome, so it is important that you save them for significant illnesses. Harmless products like Codral Cold and Flu are safe and effective regardless of whether you use them ten times or ten thousand times throughout your life. Caveat: obviously you need to follow the directions on the packaging.