Step Aside, Chicken Soup: Make Way for Hot Fruit DrinksPublished: Friday, December 5, 2008 By: Cari Nieranberg, ABC News Medical Unit Source: ABCNews
Spanning the Globe for Eight Popular Folk Medicines to Relieve Your Symptoms
Cold viruses are stubborn germs that need both coaxing -- and time -- to get out of your system. So you might need some help while you're feeling under the weather.
And it need not come from the pharmacy or medicine cabinet.
That's where the time-honored tradition of folk medicine comes into play in cultures and countries both here and abroad...
In the United States, when people get sick, they have been spooning up chicken soup for generations. The comforting golden broth, sometimes referred to as "Jewish or liquid penicillin," appears to have some therapeutic benefits, both from its ingredients and its warmth.
And while scientists have done a few studies on the soothing potion, surprisingly, there has not been any clinical research done on the effect of hot drinks on people with cold symptoms.
The December issue of the journal "Rhinology" contained results from a very small trial done in Wales. The researchers looked at a group of 30 students, all of whom had cold and flu symptoms for about a week but had not yet taken any remedies or medication to relieve them.
Half the subjects were given slightly less than half a cup of a hot apple and black currant "fruit cordial" to drink, while a control group was served the same beverage at room temperature. (A fruit cordial is a concentrate that's diluted with water before it's consumed.)
Scientists asked the participants to rate their cold symptoms before the study began and after they first drank the purple-colored liquid, as well as 15 and 30 minutes later. The participants were also asked to breathe into a facemask to check on the air flow through their noses.
The hot drink did not make the nose any clearer as measured objectively by the facemask.
But when the participants rated their symptoms, the data found that it eased coughing, sneezing, sore throat, runny nose, chills and fatigue, while the room temperature beverage helped only with coughing, sneezing and a runny nose.
The take-home message from this research, according to its co-author Ronald Eccles, director of the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University, which sponsored the study, is that "hot fruit cordial drinks provide immediate and sustained relief from most cold and flu symptoms, especially cough and sore throat."
But the study had limitations. Participants knew the temperature of the juice they were given, so they were not "blinded" to the treatment and their symptom ratings might have been a placebo response to them.
It's also not known whether any other kind of hot liquid could have caused a similar effect besides the specific flavored fruit beverage tested. And, possibly, cold beverages could also do the trick but they were not part of the investigation.
So read on to learn more about black currant juice, one of the fruits used in the recent study, and other sworn-by cold remedies from around the world.
Hot Black Currant Juice
"In Finland, there is a common belief that hot black currant juice is an effective remedy against a cold," said Jukka Siukosaari, the international affairs officer for the Finnish Medical Association. At least, "that's what my grandmother used to recommend," he pointed out. "I suppose the vitamins [in the juice] are believed to be behind the effect."
Purple black in color and an excellent source of vitamin C, black currants were used in the United Kingdom as a food source of vitamin C during World War II, when oranges were hard to come by. In fact, black currants have three to four times the vitamin C content as an orange and are valued for their medicinal benefits. Long a trusted remedy for sore throat, the small berries were called quinsy for a form of tonsillitis they're thought to treat.
Black currants come from trees found mostly in Northern and Central Europe and Asia, which is one reason they remain popular in Europe today. The trees were once widely found in the United States, but when the shrub was found to host and spread a disease that threatened the timber industry, they were banned in the early 1900s. By the mid-1960s the federal ban was lifted in favor of allowing states to make their own growing decisions.
Both the fruit and its juice have a sweet and tart taste. The juice can be homemade or sold commercially as a concentrate in the supermarket, explained Siukosaari. If using the concentrate, you add hot water to it and begin to drink the warm juice three to four times a day when your cold symptoms start to act up.
In many regions of China, the popular remedy for a cold is ginger tea.
"You drink it several times a day when you feel symptoms, especially before going to bed," said Dr. Chun-Su Yuan, director of the Tang Center
Copyright © 2009 ABCNews Internet Ventures