This research follows an increasing chorus of conventional doctors that have put forth that there is no proof that Echinacea purpurea – an herb used for centuries to stave off colds and flus in Europe – indeed lives up to its legend.
Well, the naysayers were wrong. In a gold-standard double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study, 755 healthy adults were given either an Echinacea extract or a placebo for four months. The placebo simulated the treatment in all respects.
The subjects completed diaries and were interviewed and analyzed once a month. The researchers also collected nasal mucous during cold or viral episodes. Blood samples were also collected and analyzed.
Those who took the Echinacea had significantly fewer colds and virus infections during the treatment period. In addition, duration of illnesses were significantly reduced among the Echinacea group compared to the placebo group.
The subjects in the placebo group had 188 colds, compared to 149 among the Echinacea group. The placebo group’s collective duration of illness was 850 episode-days, compared to 672 episode-days.
The researchers also found that only 65 infections recurred in 28 subjects among the Echinacea group compared 100 recurrent infections among 43 people in the placebo group, a difference of 59%.
The study also found that the placebo group took 52% more pain medication to help relieve infection symptoms than did the Echinacea group.
The research utilized an alcohol-extract of freshly harvested Echinacea leaf (at 95%) and root (at 5%). This may well account for the widely positive results, as different types of extract processes will yield different medicinal effects. In addition, because both the root and the leaf of the plant was used, there was a wider breadth of medicinal constituents.
Echinacea purpurea is also called the purple cone flower because of its large cone and purple flower. It grows through Europe and North America. It has several relatives with varying degrees of medicinal potency. A 2007 review of research from the University of Connecticut concluded that 14 studies showed Echinacea can cut the risk of the common cold by half and cold duration by an average of 1.4 days. Even with this, conventional medicine has remained largely negative about Echinacea’s ability to help prevent and counteract the cold, stating that there wasn’t enough evidence. Well, it looks like that has changed.
Jawad M, Schoop R, Suter A, Klein P, Eccles R. Safety and Efficacy Profile of Echinacea purpurea to Prevent Common Cold Episodes: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:841315.
Shah SA, Sander S, White CM, Rinaldi M, Coleman CI. Evaluation of echinacea for the prevention and treatment of the common cold: a meta-analysis. Lancet Infect Dis. 2007 Jul;7(7):473-80.