The herb echinacea, utilized by Native Americans for
centuries, is a popular remedy for preventing or reducing
the severity of the common cold. Hundreds of studies, primarily
conducted in Germany, have provided information on the herb's
chemical and pharmacological characteristics, yet few studies
have actually proven its ability to reduce cold severity.
To evaluate the effectiveness of dried, whole-plant echinacea
capsules for early treatment of the common cold, approximately
150 students in the early stages of a cold were divided to
take either a placebo or echinacea. The echinacea group took
an encapsulated mixture of unrefined echinacea root and herbs
in one-gram doses, six times on the first day of illness and
three times per day on subsequent days, for up to 10 days.
The placebo group took capsules containing alfalfa, which
has no proven ability to boost the immune system, at the same
No difference was observed between the echinacea and placebo
groups for any cold symptoms, including cough, sore throat,
runny/stuffy nose or headaches. Average duration of the cold
was approximately six days in both groups. Also, cold severity
measures were "nearly identical" in those taking echinacea
or placebo pills.
this is certainly not the last word on echinacea, since some
previous research contradicts this study, it shows that otherwise
healthy people might not obtain as much benefit from the herb
as older adults who have frequent colds or viral illnesses.
The best advice is to reduce your chances of getting a cold
in the first place: wash your hands frequently with soap and
water, and boost your immune system by eating lots of fruits
and vegetables and getting plenty of sleep.
Barrett BP, Brown RL, et al. Treatment of the common cold
with unrefined echinacea: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled
trial. Annals of Internal Medicine 2002:137(12), pp.
Read more about herbs and their potential health benefits