How to cure the common cold, below.

From what I’ve gleaned from my various correspondences with people, one thing people tend to appreciate about me (among all the other things they can’t stand) is that I hold a high view of reason. In other words, I don’t say much on my radio show or elsewhere without appealing to reason, based on some evidence or logical argument. From engaging in polemics for so many years, I’ve trained myself to try and think through the ultimate implications of everything I say, to the extent that I think I can defend most of my comments with some thoughtful foundation. (More people should try this before sharing an opinion.) The fascinating thing is the anger wrought by this approach, for taking issue with people about their reliance on feelings, speculation, anecdotes, superstitions, hearsay, instincts, bad logic and so much else is not a popular thing to do.

So, I hope this doesn’t piss you off. What I’m about to say you may find interesting.

Airborne is the big-selling common cold remedy, despite the fact that no clinical trial has ever proven it to work. What is it? Why, it’s just a collection of vitamins, herbs and minerals, packaged and marketed cleverly enough to convince people that it works (it’s formulated by a former teacher, for the love of God; of course it works!). I’ve lost count of the number of people who swear that it worked for them. What they’re doing, of course, is simply comparing the severity and duration of their colds to other colds they remember having, and speculating that their colds would have been longer without Airborne.  Colds are self-limiting and last only a finite period of time, so one may feel that the product they are using when it goes away may well deserve the credit for ending it. That would be an error in thinking. Most people are just so happy to be better that they don’t care anymore, until the next time they get a cold. Anyway, a special magical formula Airborne is not, and I want something that’s actually been documented to work in clinical trials. Does such a thing exist?

George Eby is the world’s leading expert on the use of zinc to reduce the severity and strength of the common cold. Zinc helps to sustain all life on earth. It’s a cool metal, and an E-number food additive. You may be aware of using Zinc to treat the common cold; there are several such products available at the drug store and – because everyone gets colds and everyone hates them – they sell. But they don’t sell primarily because they work; they sell merely because people think they may work, and they don’t believe anything more likely to work is available. (Actually, the products which have the most pronounced ‘effect’ on the cold are pain killers and decongestants, but they aren’t ‘curing’ anything. They’re just relieving symptoms, and are welcome because of that.)

The formulation of Zinc used in most cold products is Zinc Gluconate (a compound two parts gluconate, one part zinc). I walked around Walgreens the other day looking for a zinc product in the cold and flu aisle not based on Zinc Gluconate; I couldn’t find one. The problem is that the ability of Zinc Gluconate to do any good whatsoever is disputed by science. A 2000 systematic review by the Cochrane Library referred to the evidence of benefit as inconclusive. The Harvard Family Health Guide stated in 2001 that one study suggested that “zinc lozenges have little, if any, beneficial effect on the treatment of the common cold.”

So much for zinc in its ability to cure the cold, right? Eby decided not. He decided to try other formulations, and performed a study in 1984 using Zinc Acetate which showed that it reduced the duration of colds by 7 days. Wow, right? Not only that, but a British Medical Survey study supported his conclusions in 1987. But then, ten more studies were conducted on Zinc Acetate, and five of them found no benefits. How could this be? Eby went back to work.

What he’s found since then is that the beneficial effect was limited to his Zinc Acetate lozenges containing positively charged ions. When the Zinc ions were positively charged, they had the effect of significantly reducing the length and severity of the common cold, which explained why some of the studies showed that it didn’t work; they weren’t using the positive-ion formula (in fact, negatively-charged ions had the opposite effect by actually lengthening colds). He took this knowledge, and worked further on the size and dosage of the lozenges for maximum effect, et viola!

Now, being the smart man Eby is, he immediately patented this precise formulation of positive-ion Zinc Acetate. and being a scientist rather than a businessman, he had no idea how to market it in the way Airborne (“created by a teacher”) did. The result is that almost nobody knows that his scientifically sound product exists. Except me, and now… you.

When I first read about this, I ordered one from Eby’s website. When I caught my next cold, I followed the directions and noticed that my cold was going away after only about 48 hours of my first symptoms. (That is anecdotal evidence, of course, and would never be enough by itself to recommend it.) So, if you hate colds, and you occasionally get them, my gift to you this winter season is the knowledge of George Eby, and his pioneering research into how to get rid of your cold.