Cold buster?

Employee Lulu Knowles showcases Cold 911 tea.

Benefits of David’s Tea’s cold survival kit not proven to cure colds, but eases symptoms

Don’t expect David’s Tea cold survival kit to help you survive your cold.

The “Starbucks of tea” is marketing “Six teas to get you through cold season,” each offering a blend of ancient remedies, along with the cold survival kit, containing some of these “cold-fighting teas.”

Some ingredients are eleuthero root and echinacea (Cold Zing), peppermint and juniper berry (Cold 911) or ginger and pink peppercorn (Super Ginger).

“There’s no strong evidence out there that any of these would, in a tea bag formulation, be strong enough to do what they say,” said Tannis Jurgens, associate professor, medicinal chemistry and natural health products, at Dalhousie University.

Statistics Canada estimates Canadians consume more than 10 million cups of tea each year – roughly 300 cups per person.

For centuries, ginger has been used for anti-nausea, and peppermint for stomach illnesses. But the claims of these ingredients have never been clinically proven.

“People wouldn’t have continued to use them (the ingredients) if there wasn’t some perceived benefit, whether it’s real benefit or it’s placebo,” says Jurgens.

David’s Tea’s website says of the cold survival kit, which sells for $24.50: “Feeling queasy? Nothing a little North African Mint can’t handle. And when all else fails, dip into your emergency supply of Cold 911 for guaranteed relief.”

There are many herbal teas on the market that have natural product numbers – meaning the actual number of milligrams of each ingredient is available, and the product has been proven to work through continued use.

David’s Tea website offers information on nutritional information, ingredients and preparation instructions, but the actual milligrams of the ingredients is not available.

Unlike the product-description of the cold survival kit, the product description for Cold 911 states: “With its soothing citrus and mint aroma we can’t guarantee miracle results, but at least we can guarantee it tastes great.”

Employee Lulu Knowles says their health teas aren’t supposed to be a replacement for medicine, but “it’s not just old wise tales, the stuff actually works,” she says.

“It’s like an internal Vick’s VapoRub.”

She says many nurses and doctors come in and recommend the cold teas to their patients.

“I think these claims are trying to be very vague,” says Jurgens.

Some of the ingredients, such as echinacea, have been used in studies that tried to show more concentrated ways to stimulate the immune system. Even for more concentrated products, Jurgens says, the evidence is not strong for colds.

“As we are not ‘health experts,’ we are not in the position to provide you with the health benefits of our teas,” says Stacie Keenan, public relations manager, David’s Tea.

Jurgens says that due to a lack of quantifiable data, colds are a hard thing to study, so it’s not a bad thing that the claims might be a little off.

“It’s not like you’re drinking tea to reduce your blood pressure … who’s to say your sore throat would have gotten better in five days with no treatment or six days with treatment?”

David’s Tea drinker Kristine Bobak says she drinks Cold 911 “because it soothes my throat and clears my sinuses when I’m sick. As to whether or not it’s actually effective …”

Jurgens points out without a natural-health certification or clinical trials, there’s no way to tell for certain if the teas work for everybody.

“There is a lot of historical use,” she says. “But proving it in our sort-of western medicine style is challenging.”
“I think what they’ve done is looked at the traditional plants that were used for traditional things, and just put them together, which is a reasonable approach.”

With a cold, she adds, “you’re going to get better whether you drink tea or not.”