Last updated: Jun 07, 2010
“Its cold season. Help!”


Neither. When it comes to fighting off a cold, theres no definitive evidence that vitamin C or echinacea really work. In fact, a Cochrane Library review of 30 studies found that C is only effective for people under high physical stress, like marathon runners. And several studies have concluded that echinacea is ineffective for preventing colds.

“Anecdotally, I have patients who swear by both,” says Brent Bauer, MD, director of the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program at the Mayo Clinic and author of the Mayo Clinic Guide to Alternative Medicine 2007. If taking something makes you feel better (regardless of the evidence), most experts suggest that you go with C: “There are too many variables with echinacea,” Bauer says. Vitamin C is safer, less complex, and more affordable. “You dont have to worry as much about where it came from or what it really is,” he explains. “Its something our bodies need anyway, and its anti-inflammatory properties might make you feel a bit better, even if its not really preventing colds.”

Want to avoid a cold this winter? Experts agree on this: Wash your hands. A lot.