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NewsBites March 2011 Issue

Echinacea Relieves Colds Only a Little

I f you’ve got the sniffes, echinacea probably won’t help much, accord- ing to the latest randomized, controlled trial to report disappointing results from the popular herbal remedy. Uni- versity of Wisconsin researchers divided 719 cold sufferers into four groups: One group got echinacea (10.2 grams the frst day and 5.1 grams for 4 ad- ditional days) without being told about the treatment, a second group knew they were getting the herb, a third got a placebo and a fourth got nothing. Du- ration of symptoms ranged from 6.34 days in the blinded echinacea group to 7.03 days in the no-treatment group, with almost no difference between the unblended echinacea group (6.76) and the placebo group (6.87). Investigators found no statistically signifcant differ- ence in secondary outcomes, including infection markers and various self-re- ported symptoms. Although echinacea was associated with about a half-day beneft trend and 10% reduction in overall severity, researchers said only about one in four people would see relief likely to be worth the expense and effort of taking the herb. “These re- sults,” they concluded, “do not support the ability of this dose of the echinacea formulation to substantively change the course of the common cold.” Annals of Internal Medicine, Dec. 21, 2010; abstract at <www.annals.org/content/153/12/769.abstract>

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