Researchers Say Echinacea Does
Decrease Your Risk Of Catching A Cold
Taking the herbal remedy echinacea can more than
halve the risk of catching a common cold, US researchers say.
They found it decreased the odds of developing
a cold by 58% and the duration of colds by a day-and-a-half.
The results in The Lancet Infectious Diseases
conflict with other studies that show no beneficial effect.
Experts believe echinacea, a collection of nine
related plant species indigenous to North America, may work by
boosting the body's immune system.
Researchers, led by Dr Craig Coleman from the
University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy, combined the results
of 14 different studies on Echinacea's anti-cold properties.
In one of the 14 studies the researchers reviewed,
echinacea was taken alongside vitamin C. This combination reduced
cold incidence by 86%.
When echinacea was used alone it reduced cold
incidence by 65%.
Even when patients were directly inoculated with
a rhinovirus - the most common cold-causing virus - echinacea
reduced cold incidence by 35%.
The researchers' report said: "With over 200
viruses capable of causing the common cold, echinacea could have
modest effect against rhinovirus but marked effects against other
They found that more than 800 products containing
echinacea were available, and that differing parts of the plant
- flower, stem and root - were used in different products.
They said more work was needed to check the safety
of these different formulations.
Professor Ron Cutler, of the University of East
London, said: "The true benefits, and more importantly, how the
agents work remains unclear and further better-controlled actual
clinical trials still have to be carried out.
"Echinacea may reduce the duration of illness
and decreases the severity of cough, headache, and nasal congestion.
He said people with impaired immune function
might benefit from taking echinacea during the winter months to
prevent colds and flu, but that healthy people did not require
long-term preventative use.
"There has also been the suggestion in the past
that continuous treatment with echinacea is not recommended -
the benefits may only be effective for one or two weeks and after
taking the agent for this time people should stop and give the
immune system a week without the agent."
Professor Ronald Eccles, director of the Common
Cold Centre at the University of Cardiff, said the work was "a
significant step in our battle against the common cold".
"Harnessing the power of our own immune system
to fight common infections with herbal medicines such as echinacea
is now given more validity with this interesting scientific evaluation
of past clinical trials," he added.