The study is the largest ever examination of the effects of the herb, and the results have just been published in the July journal of The Lancet (Infectious Diseases). It said that echinacea reduces the chances of catching the common cold by 58 per cent. It also concluded that echinacea shortens colds by 1.4 days.
One of the 14 studies reviewed combined echinacea with vitamin C, which showed the two together reduced cold incidence by 86 per cent.
They don't know why it works, but say that its three properties could be stimulating the immune system. The World Health Organization recognized echinacea as a cold treatment in 1999.
It is interesting that this study pooled the results of 14 studies, many of which claimed that echinacea does not work. Last year the media really hyped the bad news, with various medical experts reporting that "echinacea does not work" and "don't waste your money on echinacea," and "another nail in the coffin of herbal supplements," etc.. As a result, echinacea sales last year took a dive. But it turns out that those studies really didn't have enough people in them to reach a correct conclusion about whether echinacea works or not. When all the studies were pooled together, and the study population was thus large enough to be definitive, it showed that echinacea does work after all. As this latest study was published in the Lancet, possibly the most prestigious of the medical journals, it's protocols and results are highly likely to be both rigorous and valid.
I think this whole case illustrates that the media is very sloppy in reporting on medical topics. There seems to be a lot of anti-supplement bias just waiting for some bad news. I note too that last year the bad news about echinacea was MUCH more widely reported than is this good news about echinacea this year. It seems to be appearing in about half the number of news outlets compared to last year.
One easy way to tell if a media outlet is biased is if it says of a good test result for a vitamin or supplement, "These results are intriguing, but more studies are needed." More studies are ALWAYS needed, whether the result is good or bad, so that is hardly saying anything. The problem, to me, is that if the test result is bad, many media outlets have a "that settles it" attitude, even though "more studies are needed" seems to be as equally valid a response to a bad result as to a good one. But you very seldom see them saying that when the results are negative. Obviously, in the above case regarding echinacea, more studies WERE needed, but they didn't say that last year!
I've always taken Echinacea since was 21 I am 38 now. I have never been sick other than migraines. No cold, flu, or sniffles. Only thing I've had is swollen lymph nodes from grinding my teeth and swollen lypmh nodes in my back and that icky achy body and headache before my period. Never had a flu shot either. I had a really bad flu back at 21 and no meds would fix it. I took all the OTC remedies and nothing worked.
My trainer at the gym told me about Echinacea and I've never been sick since. I either take the tea or the capsules.
Can't say it'll work for everyone but it has for me.
I have some unexplained things happening now but I think it's from a tick bite.
Last edited by FromSqueaky; 06-26-2007 at 02:09 PM.
I remember reading a few years ago that one of the reasons that some of these tests didn't provide a conclusive result is that the amount of active ingredient in many of the samples (purchased off the shelf in ordinary stores) were analyzed, and the result was that the active ingredient was inconsistent or even non-existent. There are supposedly 3 varieties of echinacea that have a useful active ingredient, and there is no federal oversight to make sure that the products actually have this active ingredient, or that the active ingredient is in the advertised quantities, or which variety of echinacea was used, or that there is even any echinacea plant material at all in the products. Until there is a federal law that requires testing and accountability, we are still at the mercy of the manufacturers to provide in their products what they say on the label.
In principle, echinacea is probably a wonderful plant that does indeed help people to fight cold viruses. In practice, we are often not sure what we're getting.