In a recent blog, “Echinacea demonstrates little benefit in treating common cold,” I told you about new research suggesting echinacea is NOT effective for reducing cold symptoms.
But, according to the experts at Prescriber’s Letter, “… it is important to keep in mind some caveats. This study was not designed to detect modest benefits. Other clinical research shows that some echinacea preparations can reduce cold symptoms, but usually only slightly.”
In my book, Alternative Medicine: The options, the claims, the evidence, how to choose wisely, I write, “Echinacea may provide some help in relieving the symptoms of cold and flu. Many of the controlled studies have been conducted with European products that are known to be of high quality. Some of these are now available in the United States (see below), but many other products are also available whose quality is not known or regulated.
Prescriber’s Letter tells us doctors, “Explain to patients that if there is a benefit, it is probably small and may not be meaningful for some people. If patients decide to try it, suggest starting echinacea when symptoms are first noticed. Consider recommending those products with the best evidence such as:
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.
In addition, 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.