Medical Minute: Echinacea

BOSTON (CBS) – Echinacea is an herb used by many people to treat the common cold.  It has been theorized that it stimulates the body’s immune system allowing the body to better fight infections.

[Audio|titles=Echinacea|artists=Dr. Murray Feingold]

But is it really effective in treating a cold?

Prior studies produced conflicting results.

In a recently well controlled study, subjects were given a placebo and echinacea to determine if the herb was effective.

Results showed that there was no statistically significant evidence that taking echinacea reduced cold symptoms.

Also, no increase was found in the various indicators that indicate the body’s immune system was more active after taking echinacea.

Researchers concluded that echinacea may have only a small beneficial effect in treating colds.

Side effects of taking echinacea were rare.

Although this study shows that echinacea is not that effective, some people have great faith in it.

Since it does not appear to cause any significant harm, continuing to take it remains an individual decision.

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