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Echinacea and the common cold

TOUTED as a natural way to prevent the common cold, echinacea has become one of the most widely used herbal products. However, findings on its effectiveness have been mixed. What do the latest studies show?

A study analysed data from 14 studies involving 1,630 children and adults who had been randomly assigned to take echinacea or a placebo.

Those who took the herbal supplement while healthy cut their odds of catching a cold by more than half. In studies that tested its effect once people had a cold, taking echinacea reduced cold duration by about 1 1/2 days.

Who may be affected? Children and adults. More than 200 viruses can cause the sneezing, coughing and runny nose of a cold. Adults average two to three colds a year: children often have six to 10.

Caveats: Different species of echinacea, products made from different parts of the plant and plants from different regions might not produce the same results. An ideal dose was not determined.

Information on safety including side effects and drug interactions was not provided. The mechanism by which echinacea seems to act against colds remains unknown.

     
     

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