Echinacea demonstrates little benefit in treating common cold

In my book, Alternative Medicine: The options, the claims, the evidence, how to choose wisely I write, “Millions of people take echinacea because they’re convinced it works to combat the common cold, for which there of course, is no cure.”

In the book, I conclude:

Echinacea may provide some help in relieving the symptoms of cold and flu. Many of the controlled studies have been conducted with European prod- ucts that are known to be of high quality. Some of these are now available in the United States, but many other products are also available whose quality is not known or regulated.

Given its apparent safety, echinacea may be a helpful option when a cold or flu begins but should not be used for extended periods of time.

Long-term use cannot be recommended, given the lack of benefit for preventing infections and the lack of long-term safety studies. It should not be used by pregnant or breast-feeding women.

But now the results are in from the largest ever study of the herb, including the big question here, “does it work?”

The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that echinacea demonstrated little benefit in treating the common cold, the AP reports.

“The study of more than 700 adults and children suggests the tiniest possible benefit — about a half-day shaved off a weeklong cold and slightly milder symptoms. But that could have occurred by chance.”

Bloomberg News reported that for the study, “research patients in Wisconsin took tablets with the equivalent of 10.2 grams of dried echinacea root in the first 24 hours of treatment, and half that much in each of the next four days. Those participants had a 10 percent drop in the severity of colds compared with people on a placebo.”

The Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog reported, “The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine lists studies that also find echinacea ineffective in fighting colds.”

The blog entry recommended that readers not “run out and buy echinacea if you develop cold symptoms — it’s probably better just to say home, take it easy and not expose others.”

Given this well-done new study, I think I’d have to agree.

So, what could you try? See my blog, “What Natural Medications are Possibly Effective for the Common Cold?

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