As we get closer to the big cold season, it is important to review the literature about what works, and what doesn't work. I hate to knock the air out of Vitamin C because it is such an important vitamin for many reasons. (Besides, whenever I write anything negative about "C", I hear from people who are very upset with me. Vitamin C has more "fans" around the world than any other single product of the alternative healthcare industry.)
Well, here I go, putting Vitamin C into the "Sham" category (at least for it's use in megadoses to knock out a cold). Don't get me wrong--I take a gram of Vitamin C every day. But I don't expect it to take away cold symptoms when they come up!
A medium-to-large trial took place in Australia where researchers looked at what would happen if large doses of vitamin C were taken directly at the onset of a cold. Four hundred healthy volunteers took a daily dose of vitamin C (1 gram, 3 grams or a placebo).
This group was instructed to begin taking the medication when they experienced the common symptoms of a cold. Participants were asked to keep a simple record of their colds and return them to the researchers conducting this double-blind, randomized clinical trial.
149 participants kept up the trial process, returning cold records describing a total of 184 cold episodes. Researchers found no real differences between the vitamin C and the placebo group. In other words, there was ZERO difference in cold severity or duration for those who were taking the megadoses of Vitamin C. In fact, the placebo group had the shortest time for symptoms (nasal, systemic and overall symptoms). This group also had the lowest severity score at 14 days, seven days and 28 days. Researchers found that this study confirms four other randomly controlled clinical trials on vitamin C in colds -- there's just not a lot of evidence showing its value in knocking out colds.
A recent article in Natural Health, October 2007 issue, describes four products that can be used to knock out a cold. For some reason, Vitamin C was listed as one of those, despite the negative value shown in the science above. One of the other products was Echinacea, one was Zinc, and one was Andrographis (Kan Jang® was described specifically, which is a herbal combination of andrographis and eleuthero).