I’ve written quite a bit about this herbal cure, particularly in my newsletter, the Vitamin Doctor. But in truth, echinacea can be awfully confusing. Some evidence says it works, other studies say no way. Some people swear by it, some find no value at all. Where do I stand on this and what should you know? Read on.
First off, we know that echinacea influences the immune system, which is what fights off viruses. Echinacea’s biggest role is in fighting the common cold. The herb helps the body’s immune system kill off foreign cells, while also boosting the activity of your “natural killer cells.” Echinacea has anti-inflammatory activity, antifungal properties, and also stimulates other immune cells that fight invaders. For these reasons, it is believed to fight off infections.
Yet, there is a great deal of controversy about the effectiveness of echinacea in preventing and treating the common cold. Some studies show that echinacea can reduce the severity of cold symptoms, as well as its duration—by 10% to 30%. On the other hand, studies have failed to show any effect at all.
Similarly, there are studies that show echinacea can decrease the risk of developing the common cold by 45% to 58%, when taken days or months before a cold strikes. Yet other studies fail to show any benefit from taking echinacea before the onset of a cold.
In my mind, such discrepancies in research could be due to many reasons:
• Different species of echinacea used
• Different preparation methods employed
• Different patient population studied
• Different times patients began taking echinacea
• Different research study designs
My final word on this subject is: this famous herbal cure is worth experimenting with. It just might help you withstand a cold or flu. But it shouldn’t be considered a definitive cure at this point. We continue to await better-designed studies that draw firm conclusions.