Here's some news that's nothing to sneeze at: A team of Edmonton researchers have found that taking ginseng supplements can reduce your risk of contracting the common cold and reduce the severity and length of a cold if you do get one.

In a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the researchers compared the effects of North American ginseng supplements and an inactive placebo when it comes to warding off colds or reducing their severity.

The researchers compared these effects by randomly assigning 323 adults to receive either 200 mg per day of ginseng in capsule form or a placebo (a capsule containing no active ingredients) for a period of four months. Neither the participants nor the investigators knew who was getting which treatment while the treatment was being given.

All of the participants reported contracting a minimum of two colds in the year prior to the study, but were in good health at the time the trial commenced. None of the participants had received a flu shot in the previous six months.

Every evening, participants were required to rate themselves on a variety of cold-related symptoms, such as sore throat, runny nose, sneezing and nasal congestion. Symptoms were scored on a scale of zero (no symptom) to three (severe symptom), with a cold being considered a two-day total score greater than 14.

Participants who did come down with colds during the study period were instructed not to take any cold medications unless advised to do so by their doctor.

Over the next four months, participants who received the ginseng capsules reported suffering from 0.68 colds, while the placebo group reported an average of 0.93 colds. There was also a difference in the number of subjects from each group reporting two or more colds, with 10% of the ginseng group and 22.8% of the placebo group reporting multiple colds over the four-month period.

When it came to cold length and severity, ginseng wasn't all stuffed up either. The total symptom scores of participants in the ginseng group was 77.5, on average, compared to 112.3 for the placebo group, while the number of days cold symptoms were reported was 10.8 and 16.5 for the ginseng and placebo groups respectively.

While the study doesn't explain how ginseng may work against colds, the researchers speculate that ingredients called polysaccharides and oligosaccharides, found in North American ginseng, may enhance immune response.

Ginseng "appears to be an attractive natural prophylactic treatment for upper respiratory tract infections," concluded the researchers. "However, further studies are required to assess its efficacy and safety for children and immunocompromised populations."

The study was funded by CV Technologies, a manufacturer of ginseng supplements, though the Canadian Medical Association Journal notes that the company had no role it the trial's design or execution.

Experts also caution against using ginseng if you are pregnant, on blood thinners, have high blood pressure, irregular heart rhythms, diabetes, or some other medical conditions, so talk to a doctor before you use it. As well, because the composition of supplements can vary from product to product due to a lack of regulation, you may see a difference in results.