A study was done on 148 college students at the University of Wisconsin to see whether Echinacea was more effective than placebo (“fake pills” with no herb in it). The study was published recently in the Annals of Internal Medicine (Ann Intern Med 2002;
The students were given 1 Gram capsules of a mixture of Echinacea herbs that can he bought in health food stores. With the onset of the common cold the students were given 1 capsule 6 times daily for the first day and three times daily from the second to the 10th day. The researchers examined all the students in the placebo group and the Echinacea group for symptoms, duration of the cold and the severity of the cold. The mean duration for both groups was 6 days. None of the criteria in measuring the severity of the cold symptoms were different in both groups. Dr. Barrett, the lead investigator concluded that there was no measureable difference between the two groups, but added that the findings of this trial should not be “the last word” on Echinacea. More studies are needed regarding this matter.
Comments: One of the problems with such a study is that the investigators assumed that a placebo pill would not have an effect. However, countless other studies have shown that a placebo often has a 15% to 20% effect. On the other hand it is difficult to have another control for this by not taking any pill (it would be obvious to the subject being investigated that they are the negative control and the negative placebo effect would kick in). So, don’t stop taking Echinacea yet, if you have been taking this normally to treat a common cold. On the other hand, if you never took it in the past, perhaps you want to wait first what other studies will say in future regarding Echinacea.
Last edited December 10, 2012