One common supplement can slash cold duration by up to 41%
My father-in-law, Jack O’Leary (1930–2004), was a publisher who worked on legendary Madison Avenue in New York during the 1960s. He longed for the day when medical research finally found the proverbial “cure for the common cold.” He used to say, “Now that would be a story!”
When I worked at the National Institutes of Health, Jack would ask whether they were researching a cold cure—which would have been of such practical benefit for millions of people…and their employers.
After all, the federal government is (sad to say) by far the largest employer in the U.S., so you would think the U.S. would want its huge government medical research institute to spend a little of its billions on practical research like that. (Then again, how would government employees ever use all those weeks and weeks of paid sick leave?)
But I could never report that any such research was underway at the NIH. They would have been looking in all the wrong places anyway.
That’s probably why the new research I’m going to share with you today comes from Helsinki. The Finns haven’t found a cure for the common cold…but they have found an effective treatment.
And, of course, it’s a natural remedy I’ve known about for years—but that the U.S. government continues to ignore.
Build your immunity with zinc
The Finnish study involved 199 men and women suffering from a common cold. They were placed into three random groups to test the effect of zinc acetate lozenges at a dose of 75 mg a day or higher.1
Two analyses of the groups were performed. One analysis showed that zinc reduced the duration of the subjects’ colds by 2.7 days, and the other showed a 2.9-day reduction. This is quite impressive when you consider that the study participants who didn’t get zinc had an average cold duration of seven days.
So, doing the math, the people who took zinc had a 38 to 41% reduction in the amount of time they suffered from a cold.
Why? Because zinc is one of the most effective ways you can build your immunity. In a moment, I’ll tell you about other ways you to boost your immune system and fight off colds and flu, but first let’s take a closer look at how much zinc you really need.
How to make sure you get a safe—but effective—dose
It’s no surprise that zinc is so effective at fighting colds. After all, this mineral has the highest number of health claims approved by the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority).
(Warning: The two supplements with the second- and third-most EFSA-approved health claims are iron and calcium. But I recommend you NEVER take these minerals in supplement form. Get them from food instead. See page 1 for more.)
The EFSA did get it right with zinc, though, approving it for 18 different health conditions. This includes skin and bone health, along with immune health.
The Finnish researchers asserted that a dose of 80 mg a day of zinc for one to two weeks would not have any adverse effects. Other studies have found zinc doses of 100 to 150 mg a day are safe as well.
Of course, the current RDA for zinc is woefully low—11 mg for men and 8 mg for women. I recommend you substantially increase that dose if you feel like you’re coming down with a cold—up to 100 mg of zinc acetate lozenges a day.
Zinc acetate has been found to be a better formulation than zinc gluconate. The acetate form is more readily available and thus more easily absorbed in your body.
What not to do during cold and flu season
On the popular television show of the 1960s, The Beverly Hillbillies, there was one memorable episode when Granny (Nancy Ryan) cooked up a folk remedy for the common cold. At the end of the show it was revealed that her home remedy never failed to cure a cold—after seven days, the cold would be gone every time!
Of course, this just illustrates the importance of having a healthy immune system—so you can overcome a cold no matter what remedy you use.
My father-in-law certainly knew that. When I worked at Walter Reed Medical Center, Jack suggested we put up an exhibit in our popular visitor center and museum about how to avoid the common cold.
My daughter, Alicia, had just begun kindergarten, which is where children come into contact with lots of germs. They become little incubators, passing those germs on to the rest of us. I arranged for my daughter’s kindergarten class to make a field trip to our Walter Reed museum, and they helped us design what would go into an exhibit on the common cold.
Even though the museum was located across from the Walter Reed Institute of Infectious Disease Research—meaning we had the best experts in the world right at hand—my daughter’s kindergarten class was able to figure out what the government hasn’t.
The children identified hygiene and a healthy immune system as the keys for fighting cold and flu. But our government instead puts its efforts into promoting ineffective and dangerous flu vaccines.
Years later, in middle school, my daughter presented a science-fair project showing how washing your hands with soap and water prevents transmission of germs. And that “antibacterial” soaps are dangerous because they help spawn resistant germs. It took our government until this year to recognize the same thing and finally ban these unsafe soaps.
Other ways to boost your immunity
So, along with taking up to 100 mg of zinc acetate lozenges a day, how else can you boost your immune system during cold and flu season?
Well, first of all, following a healthy, balanced diet is the foundation for a healthy immune system.
I also recommend taking a high-quality B vitamin complex every day, 250 mg of vitamin C twice per day, and 10,000 IU of vitamin D each day.
Echinacea, goldenseal, and elderberry are key herbs to take when you’re coming down with a cold or flu. Rather than trying to swallow capsules, I prefer these herbal remedies brewed in infusions—with the addition of cold-fighting honey, fresh lemon, and/or ginger.
You don’t want to be taking these herbs on a steady basis—just when you’re suffering from a cold or flu. Research shows that like zinc, they will shorten the duration of the virus.
Finally, don’t forget magnesium (400 mg daily) and selenium (100 mcg a day)—two minerals that, like zinc, have been shown to lessen the duration of cold and flu.
Bottom line: By boosting your immune system simply and naturally, you can get over your cold in record time.
In Fond Memory of John H. (Jack) O’Leary
Your “cold- and flu-proof” immune-boosting checklist
The following supplements can help boost your immune system to fight off colds, flu, and other viruses this winter—and all year long.
B-vitamin complex – choose a formula containing at least 5 to 10 mg of B6, 20 to 40 mcg of B12, and 800 to 1,600 mcg of folate
Magnesium – 400 mg per day
Selenium – 100 mcg per day
Vitamin C – 250 mg, twice per day
Vitamin D – 10,000 IU per day
And if you do begin to feel that familiar tickle in your throat, or sense other cold symptoms coming on, you can add zinc acetate lozenges—up to 100 mg per day. You may also consider brewing a nice herbal infusion containing echinacea, goldenseal, and elderberry (along with some added lemon and honey).
1“Zinc acetate lozenges for treating the common cold: an individual patient data meta-analysis.” Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2016 Jul 5.