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The fastest way to cure your cold, according to science


common cold zinc Pin It
Photo: Stocksy/Danil Nevsky

Right now, allergies and change-of-season colds are at their spring peak—it seems like everyone is sneezing. Your mom might have sworn that ginger ale and chicken noodle soup were the perfect cures. Or maybe you’ve always just relied on washing down an over-the-counter drug with lots of tea. Well, according to a new study, there’s one powerful ingredient that will help you get over your cold faster than any of the above: zinc.

Researchers at the University of Helsinki rounded up a bunch of sniffling participants and gave some of them zinc lozenges, while the others popped a placebo. The ones who took the zinc had colds that were shortened, on average, by about 40 percent.

“Common cold patients should be encouraged to try [zinc] for treating their colds.”

Apparently, taking lozenges with 80 milligrams a day (for women) is enough to do the job, but it’s not easy to get from diet alone. (If you aren’t sick, you only need to aim for eight milligrams a day.) Spinach, beef, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, and kidney beans are all good sources of zinc, but since you would have to eat a lot of all of the above, taking a supplement is much easier.

“There’s no cure for the common cold,” says Harri Hemila, MD, the study’s lead researcher. “But the current evidence of efficacy for zinc lozenges is so strong that common cold patients should be encouraged to try them for treating their colds.” But mom’s chicken noodle soup probably won’t hurt either—just top it with some flax seeds!

Here’s what a nutritionist eats when she starts feeling sick—plus, the best way to create an “edible pharmacy” in your kitchen.