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Echinacea Halves Chances of Getting Cold, Review Finds June 25, 2007

Posted by Dreamhealer in Healing, Research.
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June 25 (Bloomberg) — Echinacea, the North American flower widely used to protect against colds, actually works – and works well – a scientific review found.

The plant, also known as the purple cornflower, reduced the chances of getting a cold by nearly two-thirds compared with a placebo, according to the review, which independently analyzed the results of 14 clinical studies. Echinacea also cut a cold’s duration by as many as four days, according to the review, published today in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

“Echinacea is one of the most commonly used herbal products, but controversy exists about its benefit in the prevention and treatment of the common cold,” lead author Sachin A. Shah, of the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy, wrote. The review found “echinacea decreased the odds of developing the common cold by 58 percent.”

A 2005 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found the plant worked to treat, though not prevent, colds. Still, the World Health Organization recommends its use, and on its Web site, the agency estimates the global market for herbal medicines at more than $60 billion annually.

Scientists don’t know, however, how it exactly works other than it stimulates the immune system. Nor, for that matter, do they know how safe it is and to what extent it may interfere with other drugs, Shah said. As a result, researchers need to do more studies before its use can become standard practice.

Echinacea is among roughly 3,000 plant species used in up to 50,000 different health-care products, according to the trade group American Herbal Products Association. Both the plant and its roots are made into tea, juice, extract and external preparation, according to the U.S.’ National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

To contact the reporter on this story: Frances Schwartzkopff in Copenhagen at fschwartzkop@bloomberg.net

Last Updated: June 24, 2007 19:55 EDT

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