December 18, 2009

Add this powerful root to your cold-fighting arsenal

Most Americans are quick to take supplements at the first sign of a cold. They take a good multivitamin/mineral, lots of vitamin C, maybe some echinacea, vitamin D and resveratrol, and perhaps some other herbs and nutrients too.

But Chinese medicine takes a different approach to battle these pesky viruses. You may have heard of the yin-yang theory (balancing opposites). This theory works very well in medicine. You see, the Chinese consider the cold infection a yin state. Cold (temperature) itself is yin, while heat is yang. If you have one without the other, you're out of balance.

In Chinese medicine, roots are generally yang. So in the cold season, it pays to balance yourself with some yang energy in the form of root vegetables. (The rare exception to this is the potato. While potatoes are a root, they are also a tuber and a nightshade, so they aren't in the same class as most roots. In fact, Chinese medicine considers them very yin.)

One of my favorite roots should be in everyone's cold-fighting arsenal. The root is North American ginseng. I've used it for years to lower blood sugar and fight cancer. But now a new study proves its worth in battling colds.

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The study focused on 279 patients with a strong history of colds the previous year. Most likely, these patients had an impaired immune system, making them more prone to colds in general. The researchers gave each of the patients either a placebo or 400 mg daily of North American ginseng.

The percentage of people in the ginseng group with two or more colds during the follow-up was 10%. Compare that to the percentage of people in the control group — 22.8%. The total number of days where the participants reported cold symptoms was 1.6% less in the North American ginseng group. The researchers believe that the plant chemical family poly-furanosyl-pyranosyl-saccharides found in North American ginseng roots may be the key component.

This University of Alberta (Canadian) study was double-blind and placebo controlled. That gives it good credibility. While the results weren't overwhelming, I still think North American ginseng makes an excellent addition to your vitamin-rich diet and your supplement regimen. You can find North American ginseng in most health food stores.

Yours for better health and medical freedom,

Ref: "Efficacy of an extract of North American ginseng containing poly-furanosyl-pyranosyl-saccharides for preventing upper respiratory tract infections: a randomized controlled trial," Predy, G.N., V. Goel, T.K. Basu, et al. CMAJ, 2005; 173(9): 1043-8.

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