People who swear by the cold-fighting properties of echinacea may want to skip the herbal remedy, and save a few bucks, the next time they feel the sniffles coming on.
In a new study of more than 700 people who came down with colds, echinacea pills were not measurably better than placebo at speeding recovery time or reducing the severity of runny nose, sore throat, cough, and other symptoms, according to a story in the Chicago Tribune.
Echinacea has flunked similar tests before. Over the past eight years, several high-quality studies in which cold sufferers were randomly assigned to receive echinacea or placebo have arrived at the same conclusion: The herb has no discernible impact on colds. (This type of study is considered the gold standard for medical research.)
“The benefits [of echinacea] were not dramatic,” says Dr. David Rakel, the director of integrative medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, in Madison, and one of the authors of the new study. “There are quite a few studies done now on echinacea which show that it has a mild effect, at best.”