The very first thing that comes to mind when treating a common cold is to take Vitamin C. Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling first found the connection between Vitamin C and the common cold. Ever since Pauling advocated large Vitamin C doses as a cure for the common cold, the supposed efficacy of vitamins in alleviating various ailments had always been a controversial subject. Many of the claims Pauling made about Vitamin C attracted attention because he won the coveted Nobel Peace Prize and another Nobel award for outstanding work in the field of chemistry. Dr. Linus Pauling is the only person ever to win two unshared Nobel prizes. He had received the Nobel prize in chemistry in 1954, and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962. He was also the second person after Marie Curie to win the prestigious award two times.
Pauling believed that the presence of vitamin C in the intercellular glue obstructs virus particles from moving through cells and tissues. He also hypothesized that it was involved in interferon activity. Interferons are proteins that interfere with virus production and stops the spread of infections.
According to Pauling, the common cold is the result of an infection by a virus, which leads to an inflammation of the upper respiratory tract. The common cold can last from three to ten days and on the average can affect a person three times per year.
Vitamin C also called ascorbic acid, is a term that literally means “no scurvy.” Some 250 years ago, a British physician found that sailors given citrus fruits were cured of scurvy, an ailment that is caused by vitamin C deficiency. Dehydroascorbic acid and ascorbic acid are the active forms of vitamin C found in food. Most supplements contain only ascorbic acid. Levels of ascorbic acid in the blood also rises following the consumption of foods containing Vitamin C and ascorbic acid.
Unfortunately, the British Navy waited 50 years until they acted on this information and required all its vessels to provide lime juice to every sailor. The term limey was given to British sailors because of this requirement. Because of this, some have concluded that supplements offer the same benefit as food. However, this ignores the fact that dehydroascorbic acid (the other active form of vitamin C) may have positive effects other than that of raising ascorbic acid levels. In fact, the body can absorb and use both forms of vitamin C.
Many studies regarding the effect of Vitamin C on the common cold have been conducted since the late 1930s. In 1938, Dr. Roger Korbash of St. Elisabeth Hospital, Oberhausen, Germany published his findings that Vitamin C is effective for treating several diseases. He used Vitamin C to treat gastritis and ulcers. He then used Vitamin C to treat rhinitis, or the inflammation of the mucus membranes of the nose. He found that the therapy was valuable and decided to try 250 or 500-milligram injections of the said vitamin on a person suffering from a cold. He concluded that the Vitamin C therapy always led to an immediate disappearance of the cold symptoms, but sometimes another injection may be needed the following day. Overall, Korbash believed that Vitamin C could be safely administered in large doses. He also stated that Vitamin C was far superior to cold medicines.
Though doctors still debate the clinical studies that have since repeated Dr. Pauling’s original findings, most of them would agree that Vitamin C is a good first step in fighting off a common cold.