The herbal treatment echinacea has little benefit in treating the common cold, according to US researchers.
In their study, 719 patients aged between 12 and 80 with new-onset common cold were randomly placed in one of four parallel groups: no pills, placebo (blinded), echinacea pills (blinded), or echinacea pills (unblinded) over five days.
The severity of symptoms was monitored twice daily using self-reporting and the short version of the Wisconsin Upper Respiratory Symptom Survey. Secondary outcomes included interleukin-8 levels and neutrophil counts from nasal wash, assessed at intake and two days later.
The research, which was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal, found no significant difference in illness duration and severity with echinacea compared to the placebo.
The team’s research paper states: “This dose regimen of the echinacea formulation did not have a large effect on the course of the common cold compared with either blinded placebo or no pills.
“However, the trends were in the direction of benefit, amounting to an average half-day reduction in the duration of a week-long cold, or an approximate 10% reduction in overall severity.
“Our previous research suggests that few people, no more than one in four - would judge this level of benefit worthwhile, given the cost, inconvenience, and possible adverse side effects.”