Does Echinacea work?

December 20, 2010 3:04:45 PM PST
Common cold viruses do best in fall and winter temperatures. A lot of folks look to alternative remedies such as the herb Echinacea. But a new study from the government answered the questions, does it work?

The study was funded by the prestigious Complementary and Alternative Medicine Center of the National Institutes of Health. They wanted to prove once and for all if the highly touted herbal drug Echinacea works. The answer was, no it doesn't.

Floating in the cold winter area are teeny tiny cold germs. They're there just to make life miserable for you over a few days. Many sufferers turn to the herbal remedy.

"Echinacea is usually popular all year but this time when the weather changes it starts to pick up," said Ari Duran, with Zitomer's pharmacy.

The report studied over 700 common cold victims, some who took Echinacea, some who didn't.

"Echinacea did not show any decrease in colds that were statistically significant," said Dr. Lydia Rolita, with NYU Langone Medical Center.

Basically, it didn't work.

So Echinacea doesn't seem to help a cold. But there are some things that do and they're available at your local drugstore.

There are pain relievers such as Tylenol products. They contain acetaminophen which doesn't upset the stomach. Advil or any brand of ibuprofen is also a good pain killer, but can upset the stomach. Take it with food. Benadryl will stop the itchy eyes and sneezing. Dr. Jay Adlersberg's favorite are these squirters of salt water, to clear your sinuses of secretions so you can breathe better.

All natural Echinacea has side effects like causing trouble with other drugs.

"Some people get nauseas, liver enzymes, which could increase or decrease absorption of other medications," adds Dr. Rolita.

But regardless of the absence of effect of Echinacea in the study, there is this reaction.

Remember, just because a drug seems to be natural doesn't mean it's safe.

Afterall, the poisons strycnine and hemlock are natural. Echinacea products are not controlled by the FDA. Dr. Rolita adds that rest, a healthy diet and hand washing make up the best treatment and prevention.