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A staple of herbal medicine for colds and flu fails another test
The answer depends on whether you are talking about Echinacea purpurea or Echinacea angustifolia, and whether you are talking about a pill, powder, alcohol-based tincture, alcohol-free tincture, juice or capsule, whether the product is made from roots or from leaves, whether you take it before infection or after, and what else may be in your stomach when the herb hits your digestive tract.
The most recent study appears in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. In the study, 719 residents of Madison, Wisconsin aged 18 to 80 who already had the early symptoms of a cold were told to do nothing, given an inert pill that contained no echinacea, or given pills made from a preparation of echinacea root made by MediHerb, an Australian natural products company. Volunteers in the echinacea group took 10,200 mg of the herb the first 24 hours and 5,100 mg of the herb a day for the next four days. The results?
- Users of the herb scored an average of 236 on the Wisconsin Upper Respiratory Symptom Survey, users of the placebo, 264, and participants who did not take anything, 286. Users of the herb had fewer colds symptoms, but the difference was not statistically significant.
- Users of the herb had colds that lasted an average of 6.34 days, users of the placebo, 6.87 days, and volunteers who did not take anything, 7.03 days. Users of the herb had shorter duration of symptoms, but the difference was not statistically significant.