If you think you are suffering from the common cold please seek the advice of your medical practitioner. It is imperative to seek medical advice to ensure there are no underlying medical issues. This blog is suitable for those who have been medically diagnosed with the common cold.
The common cold & flu. A culprit to our winter blues. Scratchy throat, sneezing, coughing all the joys of a cold caused by a microscopic invader that we cant even see….a virus.
So you may be thinking the cold & flu may be the same thing but infact they are two separate cases both with different symptoms and severities. Even though they are both viral respiratory illnesses they are caused by different types of viruses. (15)
In general the flu is worse than common cold with the symptoms being more intense and the severity can be more problematic with it leading to health complications and even resulting in hospitalization.
How can you tell the difference? Symptoms may be similar but there are differences, this infographic from the CDC should help you discern which is which.
The knowledge of medicinal plants have been passed down from generation to generation from our ancestors (12,13), playing an important role in the health and wellbeing of human societies (14).
There are two plants in particular that have potent therapeutic benefits that can aid in the relief of the symptoms of the common cold and flu.
Echinacea purpurea is considered to be one of the most important and well-known medicinal plants in the world (1,16) which has been mainly used for infectious diseases in both upper and lower respiratory systems (2,3). The main constitutes that are considered to be important to the plants therapeutic benefits are alkamides, caffeic acid derivatives, and polysaccharides (1).
There have been a variety of scientific studies showing that echinacea purpurea has reduced the occurrence and duration of the common cold. Here are some of the results from the studies:
A review of 14 studies found that Echinacea decreased the odds of developing the common cold by 58% and reduced the symptoms of the cold by 1.4 days (4).
In a study with 80 individuals found that the medium time of illness was reduced by 3 days compared to the placebo group when taken at the beginning of the cold. (5)
A review of 6 clinical studies with over 2458 individuals indicated that echinacea potentially lowered the risk of recurrent respiratory infections and complications. (6)
The way that echinacea works in your body is through its immunostimulant mechanisms: Phagocytosis activation, fibroblast stimulation and enhancement of respiratory activity that results in augmentation of leukocyte mobility (1,9). Studies suggest that your immunity is enhanced by Echinacea and the immune system is strengthened against pathogenic infections by the activation of the neutrophils, macrophages, polymorphonuclear leukocytes and the natural killer cells (1, 7)
More simply put it can prevent and aid in treating various upper and lower respiratory infections by boosting the immune cells and immunostimulant mechanisms that already exist within your body.
Another very well known natural medicinal plant is Origanum vulgare. Oil of Wild Oregano has been used for centuries due to its potent therapeutic benefits. It has been traditionally used to support general health and well being in Eastern European herbal medicine. It has also been used to support immune system health and reduce and relieve the symptoms of common colds and flu. One of the main components in Oregano that give it its therapeutic qualities is a phenolic compound called Carvacrol.
A variety of studies have been performed on Oregano oil and its constituents Carvacrol displaying its antiviral activities. Here are some of the results from the studies:
In an in vitro study aimed to explore the mechanisms of carvacrol against a virus, showed that carvacrol exhibited significant antiviral activity by inhibiting the process of the virus by a mediated programmed cell necrosis pathway. (8)
Another in vitro study investigating the antiviral activity of the essential oil of oregano and carvacrol found that it was successful in inhibiting different human and animal viruses. (10)
The antiviral efficacy of oregano oil and its main component, carvacrol, was tested against a virus in vitro. Their results demonstrated that oregano and carvacrol reduced the virus infectivity within 15 minutes and was effective in inactivating the virus within 1 hour of exposure. The Oregano oil acted directly upon the virus capsid and subsequently the RNA. The virus become inactive. It was concluded that the Oregano Oil and its compounds appear to cause the viral capsid to lose its integrity resulting in likely irreversible damage to the virus rendering it to be true virus inactivation. (11)
So unlike Echinacea where it more so boosts the immune system, Carvacrol attacks the virus more head on, destroying the virus’s structure and therefore its ability to replicate. These two natural medicines work in the body differently, but end up at the same goal:
A healthy body with a supported immune system to fight off invaders.
(1) McKeown KA. A review of the taxonomy of the genus Echinacea. In: Janick J, editor. Perspectives on new crops and new uses. Alexandria, VA: ASHS Press; 1999. pp. 482–98.
(2) A randomized controlled trial of the effect of fluid extract of Echinacea purpurea on the incidence and severity of colds and respiratory infections. Grimm W, Müller HH Am J Med. 1999 Feb; 106(2):138-43.
(3) Patel T, Crouch A, Dowless K, Freier D. 122. Acute effects of oral administration of a glycerol extract of Echinacea purpurea on peritoneal exudate cells in female swiss mice. Brain Behav Immun. 2008;22:39.
(4) Shah, S., Sander, S., White, C., Rinaldi, M. and Coleman, C., 2007. Evaluation of echinacea for the prevention and treatment of the common cold: a meta-analysis. The Lancet Infectious Diseases, 7(7), pp.473-480.
(5) Schulten, B., Bulitta, M., Ballering-Brühl, B., Köster, U. and Schäfer, M., 2011. Efficacy of Echinacea purpurea in Patients with a Common Cold. Arzneimittelforschung, 51(07), pp.563-568.
(6) Schapowal, A., Klein, P. and Johnston, S., 2015. Echinacea Reduces the Risk of Recurrent Respiratory Tract Infections and Complications: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Advances in Therapy, 32(3), pp.187-200.
(8) Wang, L., Wang, D., Wu, X., Xu, R. and Li, Y., 2020. Antiviral mechanism of carvacrol on HSV-2 infectivity through inhibition of RIP3-mediated programmed cell necrosis pathway and ubiquitin-proteasome system in BSC-1 cells. BMC Infectious Diseases, 20(1).
(10) Pilau, M., Alves, S., Weiblen, R., Arenhart, S., Cueto, A. and Lovato, L., 2011. Antiviral activity of the Lippia graveolens (Mexican oregano) essential oil and its main compound carvacrol against human and animal viruses. Brazilian Journal of Microbiology, 42(4), pp.1616-1624.
(11) Gilling, D., Kitajima, M., Torrey, J. and Bright, K., 2014. Antiviral efficacy and mechanisms of action of oregano essential oil and its primary component carvacrol against murine norovirus. Journal of Applied Microbiology, 116(5), pp.1149-1163.
(12) Lev E, Amar Z. Ethnopharmacological survey of traditional drugs sold in Israel at the end of 20th century. J Ethnopharmacol. 2000;72:191-205.
(13) Heinrich M. Ethnobotany and its role in drug development. Phytother Res. 2000;14:479-88.
(14) Bahmani, M., Khaksarian, M., Rafieian-Kopaei, M. and Abbasi, N., 2018. Overview of the Therapeutic Effects of Origanum vulgare and Hypericum perforatum Based on Iran’s Ethnopharmacological Documents. JOURNAL OF CLINICAL AND DIAGNOSTIC RESEARCH,.
(15) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020. Cold Versus Flu. [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/coldflu.htm> [Accessed 1 April 2021].
(16) Saeidnia, S., Manayi, A. and Vazirian, M., 2015. Echinacea purpurea: Pharmacology, phytochemistry and analysis methods. Pharmacognosy Reviews, 9(17), p.63.