Cure or no cure, we’ll keep taking the tablets

Is there anyone who has never overheard the complaint on a bus or train that “they can cure a lot of things, but they can’t cure the common cold”?
The slightly reproachful tone with which the complaint is uttered suggests that “they” are not really trying very hard, that “they” could find a cure for it if “they” really wanted to. But there is also just a hint of satisfaction, too, because we don’t want “them” to know everything and get swollen heads thereby. We do not want “them” to pluck out the heart of every mystery. We want our illnesses, provided they are not too serious, to elude their understanding.
The incurability of the common cold is our secret weapon against the pretensions to omniscience of the medical profession. The common cold humbles the doctor. But all that might now change.
A study by the Common Cold Centre in Cardiff has found that the popular cold remedy echinacea can not only prevent colds but also shorten them once they start. If you take three daily doses for four months, your chances of catching a cold and the length of time you spend with it declines by 26 per cent, or 60 per cent if you are particularly susceptible to colds. Whether the benefit is large enough for people to take echinacea three times a day for four months is something for each person to decide: no answer is right for everyone.

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