It’s that time of the year again when all the usual suspects, or as I like to call them-the virus crime bosses, get together to discuss which territories they’re going to target next. I can see them all sitting around the table now: On the left are the Rhinoviruses with their 99 serotypes, to the right the coronaviruses and adenoviruses, and at the end of the table the particularly evil human respiratory syncytial virus family. All indications are that it’s going to be a particularly good breeding season at the schools.
The “common cold” is by far the most diagnosed non-influenza viral infection, resulting in $17 billion dollars of medical care and 200 million days of missed work on an annual basis. It’s estimated that Americans spend $2.9 billion on over-the-counter cold remedies and $1.1 billion on unnecessary antibiotics. In an ideal world we would all take the necessary steps to increase our resistance to the cold virus by supporting our immune systems during the fall and winter months. We would eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, control stress, avoid toxins, and get enough sleep. Sometimes, however, it doesn’t matter how healthy you are, the upper respiratory viruses are surprisingly smart and insidious.
When a cold virus attacks my “go to” botanical is Pelargonium sidoides, also known as Umcka. Pelargonium is a species of African geranium that has been used for centuries in Zulu medicine as a treatment for respiratory illness (consumption). To date, over 20 studies including 9000+ participants have evaluated Pelargonium’s therapeutic effect on the common cold, bronchitis, tonsillitis, and sinusitis. A Cochrane Review Meta-analysis concluded “P. sidoides may offer symptom relief in acute bronchitis in children and adults and in rhinosinusitis and the common cold in adults.” The Journal of Family Practice gave it a B (strength of recommendation) rating based on a multicenter, prospective, double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized trial reported in the journal Explore. In this trial, the treatment group experienced significant decreases in the severity and duration of the common cold. After 10 days, 78.8% of EPs group were “clinically cured” compared to 31.4% in placebo group (p < 0.0001). Mean duration of inability to work was significantly lower in EPs group (6.9 days) vs. placebo group (8.2 days; p = 0.0003). Pelargonium has an exceptional safety record in adults and children with no significant adverse effects. It is not recommended for pregnant or lactating women. Pelargonium does not interact with antibiotics. Research has shown that the efficacy of Pelargonium is less when started later in the course of illness, thus dosing at the onset of symptoms is recommended.
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