Echinacea of little use in fighting colds

December 22, 2010 in Nutrition Topics in the News, Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements

Echinacea of little use in fighting colds

It's the season when many of us will come down with the common cold. And if you have kids in school, chances are you'll get hit more than once.  

With the inevitable misery of cold season, many Canadians stock up on natural remedies to help relieve sore, scratchy throats, sneezing and runny noses. One popular cold fighter is Echinacea, an herbal remedy believed to boost the body's immune system and lessen the duration and severity of cold symptoms.

But according to a study published yesterday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, it's a supplement that offers little relief.

Previous studies - several hundred in fact - have tested Echinacea for preventing or treating colds with mixed results. 

In the current study, researchers from the University of Wisconsin studied 719 people, aged 12 to 80, with early cold symptoms.  Participants were assigned to receive either no pill, Echinacea, or a placebo. Patients then recorded their symptoms twice a day for one week. 

Compared to folks given no pills or placebo pills, those taking Echinacea had only a very slight decrease in the duration of their colds. Echinacea users experienced, on average, a 10% reduction (half a day) in the duration of their week-long cold, a finding that wasn't deemed statistically significant (e.g. it could have happened by chance).

As well, there was no significant decrease in the severity of cold symptoms between Echinacea users and non-users.

In truth, there's very little you can do to fight the common cold because we have no way to attack the 200-plus viruses that cause colds.

That said, there's growing evidence that some natural health products can offer cold relief, at least to a modest degree, including zinc lozenges, vitamin C, and North American gineseng (Cold-FX).

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.