Study Debunks Echinacea Claims

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) –If you’ve been saddled with a cold this winter, you may be upset to hear that the herbal supplement Echinacea won’t do all that much to make you feel better.

A study conducted by the University of Wisconsin of Medicine and Public Health found that the supplement, often marketed as a cold remedy, has minimal impact in relieving the common sickness.  

The study, published in December’s Annals of Internal Medicine, observed more than 700 people between 12 and 80 years old, all of whom had very early symptoms of a cold. They were divided into four groups: One received no pills, a second group received what they knew was echinacea and the other two groups received either echinacea or a placebo, but were not told which one they were taking.

Participants recorded their symptoms twice a day for the duration of the cold, or up to two weeks. Patients receiving echinacea saw the duration of their cold reduced by seven to 10 hours, a time frame that Dr. Bruce Barrett, the lead researcher on the project, deemed statistically insignificant.

“This dose regimen did not make a large impact on the course of the common cold, compared either to blinded placebo or to no pills,” Barrett explained.    

The good news, however, is that the study found no side effects associated with taking echinacea, so people can at least continue to take it without worrying about possible health risks.

“Adults who have found echinacea to be beneficial should not discontinue use based on the results of this trial, as there are no proven effective treatments and no side effects were seen,” says Barrett.

This study isn’t the first to debunk Echinacea’s claims. Research conducted by Harvard Medical School’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in 2005 also found that the supplement didn’t treat a cold or similar illness.

Echinacea, a wild flower (also known as the purple coneflower) found in meadows and prairies of the Midwestern plains, is sold in capsule form in drug and retail stores, with a basic 500 mg version of the supplement that typically costs between $12 and $18.  Also, dried echinacea root is commonly used in home remedies like teas, dried herbs and liquid extracts.

For information on products that were actually found to be harmful, check out MainStreet’s recalls hot topic.

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