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Saturday, February 04, 2012


For me it's not vitamin C but a Traditional Chinese Medicine herbal formula called Yin Chiao that, applied in the same way, has precisely the same effect. Little colds vanish; more serious ones have only minor consequences for a few days or a couple of weeks.

But the key, as you say, is catching the very first tickle or shivery sneeze. I wonder if other people have similar results with other remedies, like zinc or echinacea?

The vitamin C technique is a long-time tradition with me from childhood thanks to mom and it works just as you have described. I recommend a maintenance dose of 2000mg per day just to keep your system primed. I rarely if ever get colds and it's my job to work with the public. Mom hasn't reported having a cold in over twenty years.

I do vitamin C, echinacea, and garlic. Lots and lots of garlic.

I take vitamin C as well, but in much smaller doses.
I tend to take like 1000mg daily all the time, 1 500mg tab morning, and 1 500mg evening, and step that up to like 2000mg a day if I actually feel I am catching a cold. Like others, I've found it seems effective, though I can't be sure it isn't a placebo effect. One reason I don't take larger doses is that I've only been able to get 500mg tabs in India, and I use chewable tablets, so I'm a bit concerned about all the additives. I guess I should use non-chewable, but they're sour and non-crunchy. :-) Of course, the other reason I don't take larger doses is that I'm not sure how large the doses should be. I'd be interested to hear where others get their vitamin C from, though this has limited relevance to me currently. :-)

Here is skeptic.sx on the subject, http://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/398/what-is-the-latest-scientific-consensus-on-megadoses-of-vitamin-c.

I avoid supplements and go with natural foods, but I do drink more fruit juice and soups in the winter. My exercise regiment varies, but it doesn't dip below moderate. I don't get colds. Headaches, on the other hand...

I've found that zinc tends to either help me avoid a cold or if I get one, makes them shorter and less severe. I went to zinc because vitamin C didn't seem to do much, but I wasn't taking it in nearly the doses as cited here.

I suspect that the key is giving the immune system a boost with something right as you're getting it, be it zinc or vitamin c or some other help, and that's enough to knock out a mild cold and lessen a stronger one. Or it's the placebo effect, which is fine with me since I still feel better. :-)

I saw the "2000mg every hour for three hours followed by 1000mg every hour" recommendation years ago when I was researching this (might have come from Pauling--I don't recall). It might be more than is strictly necessary, but as long as you're just eliminating the extra it seems better to err on the side of too much.

If it were a placebo effect you'd expect it would work no matter when you started, but as I say that's not been the case for me.

I tried zinc a few years ago (before the FDA sounded the alarm) and had very mixed results--it seemed to forestall some colds but prolong others, and it was just miserable stuff to use. I still have some of the lozenges but don't generally use them since vitamin C works better for me. Though I do find that one way to avoid getting sicker is not to irritate your throat (which might make some sense, since it may be easier for the rhinovirus to take hold if your throat is irritated; that's supposedly the principle behind zinc lozenges and things like drinking water, tea etc).

Interesting. On the subject of colds, I must say that I cannot recall having come down with one in the past several years, and for a reason other than the ingestion of vitamins, etc. Like most people, I would almost invariably come down with a cold or two during the winter months, and simply dealt with them. Then, several years ago, I decided to try using a Neti pot (for unrelated reasons). The results were stunning, and I am utterly convinced that I had been suffering from a low-grade sinus infection for many years leading up to that point.

I had no specific expectations, yet the regular use of a Neti pot has radically improved the quality of my health. The first – and totally unexpected – effect was that it virtually eliminated a particular allergic sensitivity. As a related aside, a number of people to whom I have recommended the use of a Neti pot have had similar experiences. Secondly, it literally improved my circulation. I was one of those whose hands and feet would become (and stay) very cold, and that changed dramatically after regular Np use. Finally, and to the connection to John's post, I almost literally do not get colds anymore.

My experience, and those of others who I know, lead me to the conclusion that a very high percentage of people either have long-standing sinus infections, and/or incubate illnesses in that part of the body, and a regular cleansing can have a profoundly positive impact on health.

If you are prone to getting colds, and/or produce quite a lot of mucus, I can almost assure you that the use of a Neti pot will be beneficial. One final note: Neti pots should be used preventatively; they are not recommended for use once cold symptoms have appeared.

The other reason to drink tea is - in addition to the tea itself and the warm liquid - is as a lemon and honey delivery system. Lemon will break up the phlegm in your throat (in fact, after squeezing some in my tea, I suck on the lemon slice itself) and honey soothes your throat. So, yes, I think the throat is key. It also just freaking hurts during a bad cold.

I also think sinus rinses help. They don't keep me from getting sick, but as someone with chronic sinus problems, they sure do help.

Totally agree with you. I already take 200 mg of vitamin C everyday, plus there's vitamin C in my multi vitamin. But, if I feel a cold coming on, I take more vitamin C and start drinking orange juice too. It almost always works. Downside? I don't know of any, but I'm no doctor. Sometimes, a lot of vitamin C "dries me out" a little too much (mouth feels dry, eyes, ears nose, etc), but water (drinking and basically just pouring in other orifaces!) takes care of that. Too much OJ makes my stomache hurt, from the acid, but that's a different deal.

Also, if you feel a cold coming on, really try to get a good night's sleep. Sometimes sleep and rest will help you fight off the cold.

Avoid dairy (it leads to flegm! yech!), but try to get a lot of protein.

Another cold avoidance tip...wash your hands A LOT, especially if you are in contact with other people in close proximity, or large numbers. Wash your hands!

As I recall, the symptoms of a cold follow it rather then coexist with it; by the time you notice the symptoms the disease is finished. That would explain why a cure should be used ASAP.

Another cold avoidance tip...wash your hands A LOT, especially if you are in contact with other people in close proximity, or large numbers. Wash your hands!

This, in fact, is about the only suggestion here that has any scientific support (that, fluids, and bed rest). The vitamin C thing remains unproven, though there do seem to be some indications that perhaps taking large doses early on will reduce the duration of the disease. And huge quantities of vitamins can cause all sorts of other problems, much more serious than a cold.

So -- wash your hands and try not to pick your nose when everyone else has a cold (because you'll have the cold before you feel it and you'll be spreading germs), and stay home and rest when you're ill. I mean, if everyone just stayed the fuck home when they were down and out (and if this goddamned mess of a society we've created would support people in doing that) instead of dragging themselves in a sneezing all over everyone else, we'd probably have a lot fewer people catching colds.

"If it were a placebo effect you'd expect it would work no matter when you started, but as I say that's not been the case for me."

That's not necessarily true. There may be a point where the placebo effect wouldn't work if the placebo effect in this instance increases your bodies ability to fight the symptoms. A much better test would be to take something else at the same time believing it will work just as much as you believe Vitamin C would work and see the effect.

As was stated a couple of times, the best known defense against a cold is hand washing in order to prevent it in the first place.

A cold is a pretty benign disease and for my part I just end up ignoring it as best I can and dealing with what I cannot ignore. I should get some of those face masks for when I get sick. It won't prevent the spread of the disease but it should noticeably lessen the probability.

...believing it will work just as much as you believe Vitamin C would work...

That's putting the cart before the horse, though. I didn't believe anything one way or the other the first time I tried vitamin C (ditto with zinc), and the only reason I believe it works now is because it did, in fact, work. And it continues to work every time I try it. In fact the medium-strength cold I was fighting off when I started this posting is entirely gone, and I basically didn't get it--I had only the slightest sore throat for about a day and no other symptoms. I'm a rationalist to the core, but this is one of those cases where I have at most an academic interest in controlled studies, because I know without a doubt that it works for me and I'm certainly not going to voluntarily suffer more and worse colds just because researchers haven't reliably reproduced those results (and like I say, I suspect they're getting the dosages and/or timing wrong).

I'd definitely agree that the best way to avoid a cold is washing your hands frequently and keeping your hands away from your face--but even if you're perfect about it you're still going to catch a bug now and then (e.g. when some schlub sneezes all over you on the bus). And when that happens I hope people will try the vitamin C; it shouldn't hurt, and it may well help as much as it helps me and others here who've chimed in.

(For the record: I do not own stock in any evil vitamin C conglomerates; I'm just a standup guy who wants to ease the world's pain.)

I have a 2 yr. old daughter in daycare (envision a giant petri dish encased in a snot bubble). Stubborn about getting flu shots, I just came down with it a few weeks ago for the first time in 20 years. Fever around 104 for about 36 hours, prostrate agony, thoughts of impaling myself on the thermometer... Rarely sick in the US, since I’ve lived abroad (even pre-fatherhood) I get ill far more frequently. My pet theory is immunity doesn’t travel well.

Yeah, it works like charm. The dose is to small. The typicall dose is 20-100g per day, depending on virus type. Then you will be able to kill it in a day.

Did it several times so far. Once it was 30g, once 50g, once 100g. You take it until you have no sympthoms and finally sum up the dose.

Don't worry about toxicity - its non existent. I take 10-20g per day for years.

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