A recent study from researchers at the University of Virginia has found that echinacea, an herbal supplement widely used to treat the common cold, does not speed recovery from colds, reduce cold symptoms, or prevent catching one in the first place.
Researchers studied the effectiveness of the herbal remedy in 400 volunteers who were randomly assigned to receive a variety of echinacea preparations or a placebo. The study involved extracts from a species of echinacea that were recently endorsed by the World Health Organization as a treatment for the common cold. The subjects were then challenged with rhinovirus type 39 (a cold virus).
Based on the severity of symptoms rated by the study participants, none of the echinacea preparations were any better than the placebo at preventing infection or reducing symptom severity after infection. Moreover, the preparations had no significant effect on the volume of nasal secretions.
Many previous studies investigating echinacea have produced conflicting results.
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