4) GinsengAlthough there are many types of ginseng, one cultivated in North America called Panax quinquefolius or “North American ginseng" has become popular as a remedy for colds and flu. Compounds called polysaccharides and ginsenosides are thought to be the active constituents in ginseng. One of the more popular commercial ginseng products for colds and flu is a product called Cold-fX.
Two studies tested Cold-fX in 198 nursing home residents, who received either Cold-fX or a placebo. There was no statistically significant difference in the number of people who contracted the flu and no difference in the severity or duration of the flu. The researchers analyzed the results of the two studies together and only then did the results show that Cold-fX reduced the incidence of the flu. Although it's popular and some people swear by it, large, well-designed, independent trials are needed to determine the safety and effectiveness of this product.
There is some concern that ginseng may reduce the effectiveness of "blood-thinning" (anticlotting or antiplatelet) drugs such as warfarin (Coumadin) or aspirin. It may interact with diabetes medications, antidepressants known as MAO inhibitors, antipsychotic drugs (e.g., chlorpromazine (Thorazine), fluphenazine (Prolixin), olanzapine (Zyprexa)), drugs that stimulate the central nervous system (used to treat conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, narcolepsy, obesity, and heart conditions) and estrogen replacement therapy or oral contraceptives.
Ginseng root is thought to have estrogen-like properties and is usually not recommended for people with hormone-related conditions such as uterine fibroids, endometriosis and cancers of the breast, ovaries, uterus or prostate. People with heart conditions, schizophrenia or diabetes also shouldn’t take ginseng root unless under a doctor’s supervision. The manufacturer of Cold-fX indicates on their website that because their product isn't a whole plant extract but contains a certain compound found in ginseng, it doesn't have the side effects and safety concerns commonly associated with ginseng; although that's possible, there isn't published safety data confirming these claims.
If symptoms of pneumonia develop at any time, such as high fever, severe cough, phlegm or sharp pains when breathing, seek immediate medical attention.
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