Echinacea can prevent colds and cut symptoms short in people with weak immune systems, according to the largest ever study into the herbal remedy.
Echinacea is extracted from the Eastern Purple Coneflower found in Northern America, and has long been hailed as a remedy for warding off colds and flu.
Echinacea can help ward off the common cold
Now, the largest ever clinical study into the product has shown that using Echinacea can cut the number of recurrent colds suffered by those with weak immune systems.
Researchers at Cardiff University Common Cold Centre carried out tests on 750 people. The participants mixed 25 drops of Echinaforce or a placebo with water and held it in their mouth for ten seconds before swallowing it, 3 times a day over a period of four months.
The research was part funded by the Swiss makers of Echinaforce, a common form of the herb extract.
Writing in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the academics found that those who took the treatment suffered 149 bouts of illness compared with 188 in the placebo group.
Whilst this is considered borderline significant, they also found that the total number of days spent with flu was reduced from 850 to 672, a highly significant change.
Recurring infections were cut from 100 episodes in 43 patients to 65 episodes in 28 patients, a difference of 59 per cent. The results conflict with other studies that show no beneficial effect of the remedy.
The researchers found no adverse side effects in the participants who were all over 18, but the British drugs regulator MHRA has recently warned that Echinacea should not be given to children under 12 because of the risk of severe allergic reactions.
Roland Schoop, a medical researcher for Bioforce, the British arm of A. Vogel, and one of the study's authors, said: 'We were actually pretty amazed when we found this 26 per cent difference in cold episodes.'
If you want cover for private alternative treatments on your medical insurance policy then look for a plan with cover for complementary therapies.
© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2012