Echinacea Butte MT
Hot Springs, MT
Hot Springs, MT
Great Falls, MT
The conventional wisdom that echinacea eases cold misery has made it a best-seller. But a new study throws the scientific equivalent of a wet blanket over this notion, finding that we might as well take sugar pills. What gives?
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin in Madison gave either echinacea or a dummy pill to 148 college students in the early stages of a cold. The students who took the herb found that their colds lasted just as long, with symptoms just as severe, as those students who got the placebo. The results contradict several studies finding that echinacea can reduce the duration and severity of cold symptoms, by 10 to 30 percent.
But it may not be time to give echinacea the boot, herbal experts say. For one thing, the young subjects presumably had strong immune systems and may have been impervious to a subtle boost from echinacea. What’s more, the students suffered from symptoms for about a day before they began treatment; most experts advise taking echinacea at the very first sign of a cold. Also, echinacea can be taken in a variety of forms, some of which may be more potent than others. (This study used capsules of dried plant and root; others that have shown benefit have used tinctures or teas.)
“It’s very possible that echinacea formulations work for some groups—we don’t have enough evidence to know for sure,” says study leader Bruce Barrett, a family physician. “For treating the common cold, echinacea is still a reasonable choice.”
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