Echinacea has been used as a common cold remedy for years, but does it really work? In a recent study, researchers from the University of Wisconsin at Madison tested 719 patients who were coming down with a cold to see whether echinacea was effective in curing their symptoms.
The study looked at four groups: some given no pills, some given a placebo, and two groups that received echinacea. Those who received echinacea were given 10.2 grams of the dried root during the first 24 hours and 5.1 grams over the next four days.
Here’s what the study concluded: "This dose regimen of the echinacea formulation did not have a large effect on the course of the common cold, compared with either blinded placebo or no pills. However, the trends were in the direction of benefit, amounting to an average half-day reduction in the duration of a weeklong cold, or an approximate 10% reduction in overall severity." The full study was recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine lists studies that also find echinacea ineffective in fighting colds. This Los Angeles Times story profiles another study with the same conclusions.
Bottom line: Don’t run out and buy echinacea if you develop cold symptoms -- it's probably better just to say home, take it easy and not expose others. And here’s a look at the pros and cons of other common cold treatments from MayoClinic.com.