Dr. Dean

Echinacea No Cure For Common Cold

Posting Date: 04/30/1999

A new study using an echinacea extract has added to growing evidence that the herb doesn?t help the common cold.

I recently mentioned one study that does show echinacea to stimulate the immune system, but we don?t know if that is good or bad.

The latest research shows there is no clinical basis for the popularity of echinacea to help fight off and treat colds and respiratory infections. But, the use of the active ingredient from the purple coneflower for a variety of ailments goes back to the 19th and early 20th Century.

In the study, 108 patients took part in a double-blind study where half were given the echinacea abstract and the rest a placebo-juice substitute twice a day. All the subjects had a history of three or more colds or respiratory infections in the preceding year.

After eight weeks, there were no significant differences in the echinacea and the placebo group, although more than half of the people in each group had at least one cold. The researchers concluded that echninacea use did not decrease the incidence, duration or severity of colds or respiratory ailments.

This was a good clinical study that looked at participants? symptoms along with physical exams to determine how effective echinacea was compared to the placebo.

Despite this and other studies, many people will still take the word of a clerk at the health food store that echinacea is effective against colds and respiratory infections. My point is that clinical studies are what we should be looking at when buying this or other herbal supplements.

Some herbal products are undoubtedly beneficial, but many product claims are not based on scientific evidence. It?s becoming pretty clear through numerous studies that echinacea is not a cure for the common cold.

Source: American Journal of Medicine, 1999; 106:138-143