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Echinacea No Cure for the Common Cold, Study Finds
Date:12/21/2010

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Dec. 20 (HealthDay News) -- The herbal remedy echinacea, believed by many to cure colds, is no better than a placebo in relieving the symptoms or shortening the duration of illness, a new study finds.

"My advice is, if you are an adult and believe in echinacea, it's safe and you might get some placebo effect if nothing else," said lead researcher Dr. Bruce Barrett, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin. "I wouldn't say the results of the trial should dissuade people who are currently using echinacea and feel that it works for them, but there is no new evidence to suggest that we have found the cure for the common cold."

If echinacea was able to significantly reduce the symptoms and length of colds, this study would have found it, Barrett noted. "With this particular dose of this particular formulation of echinacea there was no large benefit," he said.

The report is published in the Dec. 21 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

In the study, Barrett's team randomly assigned 719 people with colds to no treatment, to a pill they knew was echinacea, or to a pill that could either be a placebo or echinacea, but they were not told which. The participants ranged from 12 to 80 years of age.

People in the study, which was funded by the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (part of the National Institutes of Health), reported their symptoms twice a day for about a week. Among those receiving echinacea, symptoms subsided seven to 10 hours sooner than those receiving placebo or no treatment. This represented a "small beneficial effect in persons with the common cold," according to the study. However, this slight decrease in the duration of their colds was not statistically significant, Barrett said.

There was also no statistically significant difference in the severity of symptoms between the g
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