Suffering from a cold can make it difficult for you to breathe, make you feel tired and may cause you to miss work. Zinc, vitamin C and echinacea are three natural substances often marketed as alternative medicine methods to treat the common cold. Echinacea is an herb, zinc a trace mineral and vitamin C is a type of water soluble vitamin. While you need zinc and vitamin C from your diet each day for several functions, echinacea is not an essential part of your diet. If you decide to take these over-the-counter supplements, let your physician know since they may interact with your medications.
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Zinc is a powerful mineral that you only need in small amounts each day. Taking zinc in a supplement or as a lozenge helps keep your immune system functioning at its best. Zinc can prevent cold germs from replicating in your body and may help reduce inflammation, reports the Office of Dietary Supplements. Keep your immune system strong by having 9 mg of zinc daily for women, or 11 mg for men. Since zinc is stored in your body it can be toxic at high levels, so keep your intake to less than 40 mg per day.
Vitamin C is not stored in your body, so you need to ingest it throughout the day to support your immune system. Getting adequate amounts of vitamin C may help reduce how many colds you experience each year. If you are under periods of extreme stress or live in a cold climate, consuming 500 mg a day of vitamin C can decrease your chances of having three to five colds per year by as much as 66 percent, says the Linus Pauling Institute. The recommended daily dosage of vitamin C is 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men. Vitamin C is relatively safe at large doses, but you should not consume more than 2,000 mg, or 2 g per day to avoid adverse effects.
Echinacea is a plant that can be dried and put into supplements or used fresh. It may help prevent or treat the common cold by boosting your immune system, although research is ongoing. Echinacea is a natural safe herb with relatively few side effects. You can purchase teabags, lozenges or other supplements as ways to ingest echinacea. Allergies are the most common side effect. If you are allergic to daisies, marigolds or other plants in this family, you may have a reaction to echinacea.
Each of these supplements is readily available over-the-counter at pharmacies and grocery stores. They are often combined together so you can consume all of them in one dose. You can get zinc, vitamin C and echinacea supplements as lozenges, chewable pills, in beverages or in hot tea. There are a variety of forms to choose from and it can be overwhelming to pick one. Talking with a pharmacist may guide you in the right direction as to which type of supplement is best for you.