Science

Many ginseng-based cold remedy claims unproven, expert says

The success of a natural cold remedy has spawned a number of knock-off products based on ginseng, but in most cases, the science behind the products is lacking.

The success of a natural cold remedy has spawned a number of knock-offs based on ginseng, but in most cases, the science behind the products is lacking.

Cold-fX was developed at the University of Alberta and has quickly become the biggest selling cold medicine in Canada.

"I think it's a big market," saidPam Lavold, a pharmacist in Edmonton. "I think everybody is jumping on the bandwagon and putting out their own product."

Labels of other ginseng-based products, some also containing other herbs, claim to helpbeat the common cold.

Although more research is needed, Cold-fX has shown some benefit.But the claims of other products are not supported by scientific evidence, said Heather Boon, an alternative medicine expert at the University of Toronto who has assessedthe herbal remedies.

"There is no science that the specific combination of herbs in those products are going to be able totreat colds and flus," said Boon, a pharmacy professor.

Right now, no one is enforcing the label claims on the products, Boon said.

Health Canada is reviewing all claims by cold remedies to determine what, if any, should be allowed.

Puffy, blurry eyes, a runny nose and a pounding head ledMarnie Weckel of Edmonton to scan the shelves of her local pharmacy in search ofthe popular cold remedy.

"I like that there has been clinical studies with Cold-fX," said Weckel. "I definitely purchase it because there is some kind of study."

One drawback of Cold-fXis cost. If people take two pills per dayasstudy participants did,they would spendabout $30a month, or $120 in a cold season.

While Health Canada assesses thousands of herbal remedy claims, Boon suggests consumers need to be skeptical of label informationand ads until the regulator finishes its work.

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