Friday, April 1, 2016

A Cure for the Common Cold

     I have found a cure for the common cold. You don't believe me? Well, my sister told me about it, and she's been telling me what to do for six decades now, so it must be true. But seriously, I was skeptical at first. But now I've tried it, and I think it works.

     We all know science has been looking for this cure for decades. I remember my mother plied us with ginger ale and chicken soup, and gave us little red pills called Coricidin. They still have Coricidin. I saw it in the drugstore just the other day.

     My mother also told us to drink our orange juice, and in that respect she was ahead of her time. It was sometime in the 1970s that Vitamin C began to be touted as a cure for the common cold.

     I relied on Vitamin C for a long time. And my true feeling is that whatever you really believe in is what will work for you. I guess they call that the placebo effect. And it really works, at least for a while.

     According to Web MD, a comprehensive 2007 study concluded that taking Vitamin C after you get a cold does not result in making it any shorter or less severe. However, the study suggests that taking Vitamin C on a regular basis makes you slightly less likely to get a cold in the first place. And other studies show that Vitamin C may help prevent more serious complications from a cold, such as pneumonia.

     That's reason enough to take Vitamin C. But it doesn't really help when you're sneezing and coughing and reeling from a headache.

     But I recall a few years ago, just as I was losing faith in Vitamin C, I was in the drugstore poking through the cold remedies, and one of the guys working there asked if he could help. When I said I had a cold, he reached for a pack of lozenges with zinc and echinacea. "These work for me," he said. "And I should know. I come from Buffalo."

     That was good enough for me, so I went through a stage of believing in zinc and echinacea. I read some research and found that zinc-loaded lozenges may make cold symptoms milder and may also shorten the duration of a cold by a day or so.

     But Vitamin C and zinc and echinacea only nibble around the edges of a cold. I'm looking for a cure. So I was all ears when my sister promised me something better. She and her husband were visiting two weeks ago. Her husband came down with some kind of cold or flu and was laid out on the couch, when my sister said we had to go to the drugstore.

     We drove over to CVS. She was looking for something called Oscillococcinum.

     "What?" I said.

     "Oscillococcinum," she repeated. "It's in a yellow box. I heard about it a couple of years ago." She found the box. "It's from France," she continued. "It's all natural. I tried it once and it worked."

     She found it and we brought some back to her husband. He opened the box and sprinkled a vial of little beads into his mouth. Sure enough, by the next morning he was up and ready to go. He felt perfectly fine.

     Now the other day I was starting to feel like I was getting a cold. It was late afternoon, and I was too lazy to go to the store, so I took some NyQuil and went to bed. I did sleep through the night; but in the morning I didn't feel any better.

     So I hauled myself up to the drugstore. I couldn't remember the name, but I did recall that it was in a yellow and white box. I found it, brought it home, popped open a vial and shook the beads into my mouth. How could this possibly work? I thought. It's just a few little beads that taste like candy.

     But they did make me feel better, at least for the rest of the day. Then before bed, I popped some Vitamin C, as insurance, and went to sleep. But I woke up in the night with a killer headache. I was sweating and couldn't get back to sleep. I got up and grabbed some Advil from the bathroom, but it didn't help.

     I tossed and turned the rest of the night. In the morning I stumbled downstairs and reached for the Oscillococcinum. Within an hour my headache was gone. I was feeling almost normal. Later in the day I started feeling tired again, and the headache was coming back. I took another dose of Oscillococcinum, and felt fine. When I went to bed, I slept through the night, and felt good in the morning. I took one more dose, just to be sure.

     Oscillococcinum is classified as a homeopathic medicine, indicating it comes from a natural ingredient. The "active ingredient" is listed as Anas barbariae. This morning I googled Anas barbariae and Oscillococcinum and found they are touted not as a cure not for the common cold, but as a remedy for the flu, helping to relieve headaches, body aches, fever and fatigue.

      But I was startled to discover that Oscillococcinum is made from ... get this ... the heart and liver of duck, mixed with sugar. The best I can figure, it's one part duck to 199 parts sugar. The medicine is indeed made in France. And the good thing is, it apparently has no side effects and is therefore completely harmless. But according to the information I found, the reality is there is no scientific evidence that it has any effect at all beyond the placebo effect.

     Which begs the question: Instead of duck, maybe I should just have slurped some chicken soup? In the end, I think, the real cure for the common cold comes down to this: It's whatever medicine you believe in at the time.


DJan said...

I will have to try this next time I'm feeling sick. It's very interesting to learn that it worked for you, since I have little faith in homeopathic medicines. :-)

Tabor said...

And you are sure it is not what caused your headaches??

Meryl Baer said...

I wonder if the Oscillococcinum is made with Long Island Duck - they are delicious. Maybe next time I get a cold or flu I will roast a Long Island Duck and have some sugar-laden goodie for dessert.
Can't hurt.

Anonymous said...

Sounds interesting, but it probably just has the placebo effect.

Olga Hebert said...

I am a chicken soup fan but I personally believe that drinking lots of fluids, especially water, is what really does the most good. My mother made salty chicken soup so we would be thirsty and drink more. Funny how I have gone back to believing everything my mother told me.

Carole said...

At first I thought this was April Fool's ;-)

Best remedy I know is to rest, drink plenty of fluids, and amazingly your symptoms will disappear within 7 - 10 days!

Seriously, I try to focus on prevention. I'm a big time hand washer, especially prior to eating.

Stephen Hayes said...

Believe in a cure and you will be cured. So many remedies for ailments have bitten the dust over the years. Fortunately, I'm not prone to colds.

Rian said...

I don't like to take pills - unless absolutely necessary. So I have used some of the remedies from the People's Pharmacy. Some work, some don't. But what works *for me* is using a saline spray in my nose (which keeps the nasal passages clear) and eating a raw clove of garlic (for sore throat). It may be psychological... but hey, we'll use what works!

Arkansas Patti said...

I'm a huge believer in the placebo effect. It always does quite well in all the medical trials. Wish I had known about this 10 days ago but I will be ready in the future. We just need to believe. Thanks.

Tom Sightings said...

Olga, I've said many times that if we just believed what our mothers told us, and did what they'd said for us to do, we'd all be a lot better off. And Carole, I too have heard that washing hands is the best way to prevent colds. I'm a veritable Lady Macbeth when it comes to hand washing, but obviously last week some rogue germ got thru my defenses. And so today it's Oscillococcinum. Tommorrow ... who knows?

SistuhMoon said...

I can relate--brings back fond memories. Check my new blog to see some of the things centenarians do to stay healthy and live well into 100s. Clearly they've cracked the code. What do you think??

Anonymous said...

The best thing is to wash your hands a lot and avoid colds. As for cures, knock on wood, I haven't needed one lately.

retirementreflections said...

Great post, Tom. I am new to your site -- and definitely, will be back! A few years ago there was a Canadian-based lawsuit filed against Boiron and Shopper's Drug Market, for violating consumer protection acts, and selling "worthless homeopathic products such as Oscillococcicum,"(

I agree with your conclusions, Tom, and with the conclusions of your readers. Rest, fluids and belief always works for me!


Rathbone Home said...

Absolutely wonderful. I will definitely share it. Thank you!

Douglas said...

My mother gave us chicken soup (usually just Bullion and hot water) and hot lemonade with a shot of booze in it... probably so we'd sleep and leave her alone.