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Wednesday, 3 October, 2001, 12:37 GMT 13:37 UK
Garlic 'prevents common cold'
Garlic has traditionally been used to treat the common cold
People who take a garlic supplement each day are far less likely to fall victim to the common cold than those who do not, research suggests.

Although garlic has been traditionally used to fight off and treat the symptoms of the common cold, this is the first hard evidence of its medicinal properties.

However, more research will be needed to corroborate the data.

Common cold factfile
The common cold is the most common disease of mankind
Adults catch between two and four colds a year.
Infants and young children suffer between six and 10 colds each year.
A 75-year-old man has suffered about 200 common cold infections during his lifetime.
Each person spends between two and three years of his life with a cold.
The study found that a daily garlic supplement containing allicin, a purified component of garlic considered to be the major biologically active agent produced by the plant, reduced the risk of catching a cold by more than half.

It also found that allicin-containing garlic supplements were effective in treating infections caused by the hospital superbug, MRSA.


A total of 146 volunteers took part in the experiment, which was led by Peter Josling, director the Garlic Centre in East Sussex.

Half took one capsule of Allimax, an allicin-containing garlic supplement, each day, while the remaining volunteers were given a placebo.

Over a 90-day period during the winter when most colds occur, just 24 colds were recorded among those taking the supplement, compared to 65 amongst those taking the placebo.

The study also found that those taking the supplement who did catch a cold were more likely to make a speedier recovery than those taking the placebo and the chances of re-infection following a cold were significantly reduced.

Peter Josling
Peter Josling is a garlic enthusiast

Mr Josling said the results of his research could revolutionise future treatments of the common cold.

He said: "We have been searching for a cure for the common cold for years. Now we have gone one step further and even found a prevention.

"The common cold is something that affects everyone in this country for extended periods of time.

"If we can prevent people catching a cold it will have a huge impact, at the very least on the British economy."

Encouraging result

Professor Ron Eccles, director of the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University, believes this is a very encouraging result.

He said: "I am not going to say this will revolutionise treatment for the common cold but it is very interesting.

"Plants do not have an immune system like we do - they fight viruses and infections with in-built chemical defences.

"So, if you like, allicin is one of the chemical defences of garlic which helps keep it healthy.

"In this study we are simply using the plant's natural defence to fight our own virus."

The common cold is the most widespread viral infection in the world with each person suffering between two and five colds each year.

There are more than 200 known different viruses which cause a cold and the UK population as a whole can expect to suffer 120 million colds each year.

Allimax has also been proven to be effective in treating MRSA, an infection which occurs among hospitalised patients, and which is becoming resistant to many antibiotics.

The occurrence of MRSA in dermatological conditions is also widespread and can have a debilitating effect on sufferers.

From 3 October the treatment will be available in liquid or cream form.

The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"It wasn't the most rigorous piece of medical research but the results are impressive"
See also:

09 Nov 98 | Health
Common cold cure moves closer
28 May 98 | Latest News
Common cold could go down under
08 Sep 98 | Health
Men KO'd by common cold
08 Oct 98 | Health
'No quick fix' for 'flu
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