Echinacea is barely effective against the common cold. This herbal remedy enjoyed a peak of popularity in the past decade when it was touted as a way to treat colds. But in a well-designed new trial, more than 700 people were given Echinacea, placebo, or nothing at all at the first sign of a cold. They were then told to keep careful diaries of their symptoms throughout the duration of the illness.
Although the diaries showed that people taking Echinacea suffered less severe symptoms for a slightly shorter time, the difference was not statistically significant. Over the course of the week or so that the cold lasted, people taking Echinacea got over their symptoms about seven to 10 hours sooner, hardly enough to write home about. Although the results were disappointing, the researchers concluded, “Adults who have found Echinacea to be beneficial should not discontinue use based on the results of this trial, as there are no proven effective treatments and no side effects were seen.”
[Annals of Internal Medicine, Dec. 20, 2010]

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  1. L O

    I take echinacea also at the first signs of a cold, runny nose-sneezing, etc. Immediately the symptoms go away. It has reduced the number of colds I used to get. Before I used echinacea I would get at least three colds per year. I think I would get the virus from my co-workers. I recommended the remedy to them, but they don’t believe in “home remedies.”

  2. SDW

    echinacea has never worked for me. I don’t take it and don’t have colds any more any way; could it be that I’ve already been exposed to all the available cold germs? Vitamins E and C make the inside of my nose blister, so I don’t take them either. But I do think that all our systems are a little bit different, so if it works for you, go for it. Just don’t make any blanket statements that it will cure everyone’s cold.

  3. Judy Z

    I take echinacea when I have been EXPOSED to someone with a cold. I have not had a cold in several years, so I think it must work!

  4. pkp

    The best herbal for colds is not echinacea, but andrographis. It’s available as the Kold Kare brand, and also just in bottles labeled Andrographis. When I feel a cold coming on, I take two and that takes care of it.

  5. Jan S.

    I think our bodies react differently to things. I haven’t had a cold in over a decade (almost 74 years old). At the first sign of slightly scratchy throat or runny nose, I gargle with salt water, take Echinacea and it’s gone by the next day. It works for me!

  6. DWD

    I am glad to see the caveat that Echinacea users who get benefit should not stop using it.
    Well that study shows Echinacea by itself does no harm and maybe a bit of good. I always combine it, with chewable Vitamin C and Zinc Lozenges. I can knock most colds out in a day or two. Even if Echinacea is only working as a placebo, it works 30% of the time. Sounds like three more studies are needed, Vitamin C only, Zinc Lozenges only, and a combination of all 3 in order to get a better idea of whether combining the three will amplify each other or not.
    Don’t brush your teeth within at least an hour after chewing the Vitamin C, I believe I read here that it may soften tooth enamel immediately after chewing it.

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