Do Cold Busters Like Emergen-C and Airborne Actually Work?

Yes, they do. However, understand that these natural cold and flu remedies are not really “curing” anything. If you see a product claiming anything along those lines, that is a red flag. But what many of these products do – and homeopathic remedies do not fall into this category as they’re completely worthless – is simply boost your immune system with vitamins and sometimes additional minerals or phytonutrients. In fact, many of them are not unlike a potent multivitamin. The studies on “curing” colds with natural remedies are inconclusive, but studies have shown time and again that vitamins like C, the B-complex, and many other supplemental nutrients absolutely have immuno-strengthening properties. That’s why I recommend always taking steps to boost your immune system on a daily basis, whether you’re sick or not. Don’t wait until you feel the first itch of a sniffly nose to begin boosting your immune system. Prevent what you can before you even get it.

In general, the core factors for a strong, healthy immune system are:

– Regular, if not daily, exercise

Multivitamin supplementation

Fish oil supplementation

– A clean diet based around fresh produce and whole foods

– Avoidance of sugar

– Stress management

– Daily sunshine

Further reading:

What I eat in a day

The 7 Habits of Healthy (Thin) People

My weekly fitness routine

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About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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14 thoughts on “Do Cold Busters Like Emergen-C and Airborne Actually Work?”

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  1. There would be a lots less people with a winter cold if everyone would follow this guideline. Just last night I went to my hairstylist for a trim and she always compliments me that as long as my hair is it’s so healthy. She can tell I eat right and take great vitamins because she says the health of my hair is in great condition. Same thing with one’s health, if you take good care of yourself, you’re body will be in great condition to NOT catch a winter cold!!!

  2. Good – thanks for showing us a little of the “fine print” – I knew there was more than they were telling me.

  3. Although it has been said again and again, many people seem to underestimate the effect of their food consumption toward their appearance or even their body system. Great post, I agree that we have the ability to boost our own immune system.

  4. Also from what I’ve heard those products like airborne are not meant to be taken everyday, they are better suited for once in a while like if your going on an airplane or a crowded event, etc. I would imagine that your body can become immune to them over time if taken to much. I think they can be useful in certain situations, but proper care of yourself in the first place is the best defense.

  5. Sir when back in Blighty either last Winter or Winter afore i saw a docu on scientific myths.
    They had some fella from the Linus Pauling Instittute talking about Paulings claims about Vit C.
    As far as the presumbaly db studies they’d done they concluded if i recall as a preventative it was all gibberish and when you had the cold vast doses helped the cold go more quickly by..wait for it…10 whole per cent !

    So it shows you that a double Nobel laureate(only personage to have that honour cos neither wuz shared) is just as stupid at seeing things where there nuthin as the rest of us bods.
    Incidentally had he used a ‘could this have been acquired in a diet on the plains of Afrique ‘ rationale he might not have come up with it !

    All good things Sir.


    Simon (Fellows)

  6. Moe, all I know is people that I have spoken to that took them long term found that they weren’t effective anymore after long term use, that’s all I’m saying.

  7. And what about zinc supplements, such as Zicam. I have tried this, and they *do* appear to work. Any data or studies on how effective they are?

    1. Both Zinc and elderberry extracts were considered homeopathic at one point. Once scientific research was conducted on both of these remedies, it was concluded that they both reduce the duration of colds/flu symptoms by half the amount of time if taken when first symptoms appear. Not just one study, but multiple unbiased studies find the same results. I used to think homeopathic was all garbage also until this. I still don’t believe most homeopathic remedies are valuable, but with more research (which most likely won’t happen) we may discover more of these remedies that are actually effective.

      1. That’s not homeopathy. A homeopathic elderberry remedy contains NO elderberry.

        Elderberry can help, that’s fact. But you have to actually consume elderberry. Elderberry exyracts aren’t homeopathy, because they contain actual elderberry substances.

  8. You forgot one key ingredient to preventing illness, sleep. I’m a college student and sometimes it’s impossible to get more than 5 or 6 hours of sleep. This definitely has an impact on my immune system and overall health.

  9. I have used Airborne for about 10 years, and I swear by it. I have no idea if it reduces the severity of a cold, but I know that if I have even the slightest inkling that I’m getting a cold – or even if I just feel sluggish and coffee isn’t helping – I mix up a cup of Airborne and it always seems that within an hour or two I feel great. I assume it’s because the vitamins / minerals / whatever get in my system quickly due to being in suspension in a liquid. Who cares, I love the stuff.