The Common Cold
|Causes||Other Medicinal Plants|
By: Daniel Ramirez, Katie Souza, and Jeanne Tenorio
The common cold is an infection of the upper respiratory tract (URI) caused by some 200 different viruses. The average child will get 5-7 colds each year and the average adult will get 1-2 colds each year. It is the most “common” illness responsible for lost time at work and school. Colds are more common in the winter months. Symptoms last 3-10 days.
There are many viruses that can cause a cold, but by far the most common is the human rhinovirus (HRV) of which there are 100 known types. HRV is responsible for at least half of all acute respiratory illnesses. Studies show rhinoviruses are most active in early autumn and late spring. It is spherical in shape, 28-30 nm in diameter, contains a linear RNA genome, and attaches to the folds in the mucous membranes of the nose (hence the name rhinovirus). HRV is very prolific and once the particles have begun to replicate, high amounts of HRV is secreted in nasal mucous. Rhinoviruses are transmitted from person to person either by direct contact, contact by a healthy person with a contaminated surface, or by airborne particles. HRV survives for many hours on environmental surfaces.
HRV infection is highest among infants and small children. Researchers believe that this is because antibodies and nasal secretions increase with the primary infection. These antibodies peak 2-3 days into the illness and then begin to decrease. Antibodies can be present for a few years after the illness, therefore, helping to prevent reinfection. Infants and small children have fewer antibodies to draw on and, thus, a higher infection rate.
Artist: Daniel Ramirez
Artist: Jeanne Tenorio
There are several other types of viruses that can cause the common cold. Human coronaviruses (HCV) are responsible for 15-24% of upper respiratory diseases and the chance of reinfection is higher than with rhinovirus. HCV is 80-120 nm in diameter and also contains an RNA genome. Immunity, if any develops, is short lived. Stress can exacerbate HCV diseases.
Other viruses include the Coxsackie viruses, the Echoviruses, the Adenoviruses, the Picornoviruses (rhinovirus is one of these), the Myxoviruses (such as Influenza and Parainfluenza) and Mycoplasma pneumoniae, which is actually a bacteria.
The period of incubation, the time between exposure and manifestation of symptoms,
is usually two or three days.
The first symptoms are feelings of roughness or soreness of the throat, development of a nasal discharge, sneezing, and a sensation of fullness and irritation in the upper respiratory tract. Headache, general malaise, and chills are often present. A slight increase in temperature, usually not over 101o F may occur, and gastrointestinal discomfort especially in children.
The cold may be followed by more serious complications – bronchitis, otitis media (middle ear infection), bacterial sinus infection, infection of the mastoid bone, meningitis, bronopenumonia or lobar pneumonia, or exacerbation of other conditions or diseases, such as asthma, arthritis, kidney disease or heart disease.
Colds are common world wide. HRV and HCV cause infection in individuals from pole to pole, however, in the temperate regions, the “cold” season correlates with the winter season.
Scientific Name: Echinacea purpurea,, Echinacea angustifolia, and Echinacea pallida
Common Names: Purple coneflower, Sampson root, Missouri snakeroot, Rudbekia, Red sunflower
Photo Courtesy of DA Brill, www.herbnet.com/herbalpedia_echinacea.html
Description and Habitat:
Echinacea is a hardy, herbaceous perennial from the Asteraceae family. It is often used as an ornamental plant because of its beautiful purple or pink daisy-like flowers. Echinacea can grow upwards of 3 feet with stout dark green stems and bristly leaves. It prefers to grow in full sun but can tolerate some shade. Echinacea is native to the prairies of North America but can be successfully cultivated in the southwest.
Traditionally, Echinacea was the primary medicinal plant used by the North American Plain Indians. Echinacea was used to treat everything from sore gums to rattlesnake bites; hydrophobia to gonorrhea. Echinacea entered mainstream medicine in 1870 when HCF Meyer introduced “Meyer’s Blood Purifier”, a cure-all which contained Echinacea extract. By the 1920’s Echinacea had been incorporated into the Modern American medicine as a remedy for the common cold. In recent years, Echinacea has become wildly popular in both the US and Europe, where it has been used as a primary treatment for colds and infections. However, due to its increasing popularity, Echinacea is now on the medicinal plants “at risk” list created by the United Plant Savers.
Echinacea is usually taken at the first sign of a cold and continued for 7 to 14 days.
Tinctures: One of the most popular forms of Echinacea supplement, a tincture may be alcohol or glycerin based. Standard Dose: 4 mL, 3 times a day
Standard Dose: ˝-2g, 3 times a day
Tea: Generally the least
expensive preparation, a tea can be brewed from the root or a mixture of plant organs.
Standard Dose: 1/2-2g per
cup of tea, 3 times a day
Standard Dose: 300mg, 3 times a day
Standard Dose: 2-3 mL, 3 times a day
Active Compounds and
While no single compound in Echinacea has been solely attributed to its cold fighting ability, many researchers believe that the high-molecular-weight polysaccharides, caffeic acid derivatives, and alkyl amides contribute to its immunostimulatory action. Echinacea has been shown to increase levels of interferon, which in turn, stimulates phagocytosis (basically healthy cells eating the virally infected cells), cellular respiration, and lymphocyte activation. Cichoric acid (a caffeic acid derivative) has also been shown to inhibit integrase, an important enzyme in viral reproduction. Echinacea has also exhibited anti-inflammatory action which is often attributed to the alkyl amides and high-molecular-weight polysaccharides. Much of the research on Echinacea is focused on determining how these immune-boosting compounds work together to shorten the duration of the common cold.
Flowers: 12,000 - 31,000 ppm Root: 6,000 - 21,000 ppm
Alkyl Amide Derivatives
Root 40 - 1,510 ppm
Polysaccharides (too large to draw)
A Heteroxylan: Molecular Mass 35,000
An Arabinorhamnogalactan: Molecular Mass 45,000
Experimental Data and Other Research:
An ever-increasing amount of evidence shows that Echinacea can shorten the duration of a cold. The herb can also make the symptoms of the cold milder, and may help to "abort" a new cold. The most relevant studies are those that test Echinacea on people with cold symptoms. Many of these clinical studies on Echinacea were conducted in Germany, where Echinacea is a commonly prescribed medicine. By 1999, at least 29 controlled studies were completed on Echinacea, 14 of which were double blind. Most of this research examined Echinacea with respect to upper respiratory tract infections (URI's) which are illnesses involving the nose, throat, and bronchi. In all, these studies make a relatively strong case that Echinacea, in its various forms, can reduce the number of days of sickness and make cold a flu symptoms milder. Most researchers believe that Echinacea increases the cell-meditated immunity. This is the part of the immune system involving T-lymphocytes-specialized cells designed to recognize and attach to specific invaders. They also begin to make copies of themselves once they've spotted their quarry, as well as to release chemicals that act as a rallying cry to the rest of the immune system. In one study, Echinacea was found to "wake up" the immune system and increase the reaction in tests of cell-mediated immunity. This distinctly suggests that Echinacea is an immune stimulant. Additional studies have examined Echinacea's effects on the activity of the immune cells. One study showed that both injected and oral administration of Echinacea causes an increase in phagocytosis; the swallowing of foreign bodies by certain immune cells. Researchers are still trying to pinpoint the main chemical compounds responsible for Echinacea's immune boosting effects.
· Expectorant to get rid of phlegm
· Anti-viral in large doses
· Burnet-saxifrage (Pimpinella
major) also as expectorant, cough suppressant and widely used to treat sore
throat, bronchitis and hoarseness
· Contains 2 compounds active against
virus from attacking the respiratory tract
· Powerful decongestant
· Contains ephedrine &
blood pressure and cause insomnia
Garlic (Allium sativum)
· Potent antibiotic and anti-viral
· Several compounds in garlic contain
· Compound known as quercetin retards
· Compound known as allicin, a potent,
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
· Contains nearly a dozen anti-viral
· Several chemicals including:
sesquiterpenes, effective against rhinovirus
and shogaols reduce pain and fever, suppress cough, the mild sedative effect
· Stimulates immune system
· Increases blood supply to the spleen
· Compound berberine activates special
white blood cells, macrophages, which destroy bacteria, fungi, viruses and
tumor cells. Several other chemicals
seem to be of help.
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
· Antiviral compounds that induce the
body to release interferons, our own antiviral constituents
Marsh mallow (Althaea officinalis)
· Soothes cough, sore throat
· Spongy root materials (mucilage)
soothes inflamed mucous membranes
· Tea of flowers is throat-soothing
· A good expectorant
· Leaf teas are also good
· Many of the same attributes of garlic
Works well in combination with
garlic in food
Osha (Lomatium dissectum)
· Try chewing on the root.
· Native American remedy
Pennyroyal (Hedeoma oblongifoleum)
· Lowers temperature at first sign of
· Promotes sweating (diaphoretic),
· Helps relieve nausea, stomach
spasms, especially after vomiting
· Not to be taken during pregnancy
NM, AZ, CO at 3,000 to 7500 ft.
· Rich in the compound glutathione,
immune system booster
Slip pery Elm (Ulmus rubra)
pery Elm (Ulmus rubra)
· The bark contains large quantities
of a mucilage… throat and respiratory soother
· Also recognized by the FDA as effective
nettle (Urtica dioica)
· Has been used for centuries to treat nasal and respiratory symptoms such as cough, congestion and runny nose as well
as asthma, whooping cough and even tuberculosis.
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OF IMMUNOLOGY/©1992 Academic Press, Ltd.
Vol. 1 Pages 410-411, Vol. 3 Pages
OF LIFE SCIENCES/©2002 Macmillan Publishers Ltd, Nature Publishing Group
Vol. 16 Pages 409-415
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF VIROLOGY/©1994 Academic Press, Ltd.
Vol. 1 Pages 258-260, Vol.3
INFECTIONS OF THE UPPER RESPIRATORY TRACT/© 2002 Neal R. Chamberlain, PhD.
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ASHS Press: Alexandria, VA.
Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West; Michael Moore, 1979 Museum of New Mexico Press
TREATMENTS FOR COLDS AND FLUS/ Anna M. Borlon, Elizabeth Collins, ND, Nancy
Berkoff/©1999 Prima Health Publishing.
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C THE COMMON COLD AND THE FLU/Linus Paulin/©1976 W.H. Freemman & CO.
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The Green Pharmacy; James A. Duke, Ph.D., 1977, The Rodale Press
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|Last updated July 18, 2003
For more information contact Dr. Mary O'Connell at firstname.lastname@example.org