Echinacea and The Common Cold

Who doesn’t want to get over an aggravating cold? Some dietary supplements are said to be great at ending the sniffles, but it pays to be cautious when taking them. Here, from the Mayo Clinic, is what you need to know:

According to Mayo, research suggests that some echinacea supplements can shorten the length of a cold by about half a day. They may also reduce the severity of some symptoms. But, Mayo cautions, the results are “too minor to be deemed significant.”

Other research has also been inconclusive. Some studies have found that the supplement, made from herbaceous plants in the daisy family, is helpful, while other studies concluded there’s no benefit at all. The different conclusions, Mayo says, may stem from the fact that “echinacea products can contain different concentrations of the herb, and the echinacea extracts used in these products can come from the flowers, stems or roots of three echinacea plant species.”

Without knowing the exact composition of the herb in a particular supplement, comparing study results is difficult.

The bottom line: In general, the herb doesn’t cause problems most of the time, but there have been some reports of upset stomach or diarrhea. As with any other dietary supplement, it may interact with any other medicines you’re taking. The best approach is to talk with your doctor before using it.

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