"Evidence is weak" for cold treatment with echinacea

February 21, 2014 by Stephanie Stephens
“Evidence is weak

(Medical Xpress)—For people seeking a natural treatment for the common cold, some preparations containing the plant Echinacea work better than nothing, yet "evidence is weak," finds a new report from The Cochrane Library. The evidence review revealed no significant reductions in preventing illness, but didn't rule out "small preventive effects."

The six authors conducted reviews on this subject in 1998, 2006 and 2008 and wanted to do an update to include several new trials conducted since then. "We've been doing this for so long and are very familiar with past research—which has been mixed from the very beginning," said author Bruce Barrett, M.D., Ph.D. in the department of family medicine at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

The research team reviewed 24 to determine whether Echinacea was a safe and effective cold prevention and treatment. Trials included 4631 participants and 33 preparations, along with placebo. Echinacea products studied in these trials varied widely according to characteristics of three different plant species, the part of the plant used and method of manufacturing.

People who get colds spend $8 billion annually on pharmaceutical products, including supplements such as Echinacea, Barrett noted. The authors' meta-analyses suggest that at least some Echinacea preparations may reduce the relative risk of catching a cold by 10 to 20 percent, a small effect of unclear clinical significance. The most important recommendation from the review for consumers and clinicians is a caution that Echinacea products differ greatly and that the overwhelming majority of these products have not been tested in .

Barrett added that "it looks like taking Echinacea may reduce the incidence of colds. For those who take it as a treatment, some of the trials report real effects—but many do not. Bottom line: Echinacea may have small preventive or treatment effects, but the evidence is mixed."

"The paper does support the safety and efficacy of Echinacea in treating colds and highlights the main issue of standardizing herbal medicines," commented Ron Eccles, Ph.D., director of the Common Cold Centre & Healthcare Clinical Trials at Cardiff University's School of Biosciences in Wales.

Explore further: Vitamin C is beneficial against the common cold

More information: Karsch-Völk M, Barrett B, Kiefer D, Bauer R, Ardjomand-Woelkart K, Linde K. "Echinacea for preventing and treating the common cold." Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD000530. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000530.pub3.

Related Stories

Vitamin C is beneficial against the common cold

February 13, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—According to an updated Cochrane review on vitamin C and the common cold, vitamin C seems to be particularly beneficial for people under heavy physical stress.

Preventing and treating the common cold: Nothing to sneeze at

January 27, 2014
How do you prevent and treat the common cold? Handwashing and zinc may be best for prevention whereas acetaminophen, ibuprofen and perhaps antihistamine–decongestant combinations are the recommended treatments, according ...

Herbal remedies escape EU law

August 9, 2011
Many herbal remedies available over-the-counter in pharmacies and health food shops are still lacking important information needed for safe use, according to University of Leeds researchers.

Recommended for you

Study suggests ending opioid epidemic will take years

July 20, 2017
The question of how to stem the nation's opioid epidemic now has a major detailed response. A new study chaired by University of Virginia School of Law Professor Richard Bonnie provides extensive recommendations for curbing ...

Team-based model reduces prescription opioid use among patients with chronic pain by 40 percent

July 17, 2017
A new, team-based, primary care model is decreasing prescription opioid use among patients with chronic pain by 40 percent, according to a new study out of Boston Medical Center's Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine, which ...

Private clinics' peddling of unproven stem cell treatments is unsafe and unethical

July 7, 2017
Stem cell science is an area of medical research that continues to offer great promise. But as this week's paper in Science Translational Medicine highlights, a growing number of clinics around the globe, including in Australia, ...

Popular heartburn drugs linked to higher death risk

July 4, 2017
Popular heartburn drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) have been linked to a variety of health problems, including serious kidney damage, bone fractures and dementia. Now, a new study from Washington University School ...

Most reproductive-age women using opioids also use another substance

June 30, 2017
The majority of reproductive-age and pregnant women who use opioids for non-medical purposes also use at least one other substance, ranging from nicotine or alcohol to cocaine, according to a University of Pittsburgh Graduate ...

At-risk chronic pain patients taper opioids successfully with psychological tools

June 28, 2017
Psychological support and new coping skills are helping patients at high risk of developing chronic pain and long-term, high-dose opioid use taper their opioids and rebuild their lives with activities that are meaningful ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.