The good news is that researchers and doctors are still looking for remedies to cure the common cold. The bad news is that according to a recent study, the purple plant we’ve thought helped expedite the healing process, an herb named echinacea, really acts as a placebo more than a remedy.
WebMD reported that “Echinacea is widely used to fight infections, especially the common cold and other upper respiratory infections. Some people take echinacea at the first sign of a cold, hoping they will be able to keep the cold from developing. Other people take echinacea after cold symptoms have started, hoping they can make symptoms less severe.”
A recent study of more than 700 adults and children, the largest to be performed on echinacea, suggests only a minute affect on its users.
Researchers say the herb shaves off about a half-day from a week-long cold and may cause the sick person to have slightly milder symptoms. But the relationship between people’s recovery from a cold and echinacea are only correlated and not linked by causation.
Basically, the half-day cannot be attributed directly to the consumption of echinacea.
The study was government-funded and conducted by Dr. Bruce Barrett and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin.
Barrett recruited participants in the Madison, WI area, ages 12 to 80. The group was randomly assigned to get echinacea tablets, a dummy pill or no treatment at all. Those who got the herb took the equivalent of 10 grams of dried echinacea root the first day and 5 grams the next four days.
Twice a day, they graded their symptoms until their cold was gone.
From those scores, the researchers saw a trend toward shorter and slightly less severe colds for those taking echinacea compared to those who didn't. However, the results did not reach statistical significance, meaning they could have occurred without any relation to the consumption of echinacea.
Well, bummer. So what do we do when ourselves or a loved one gets a cold? For starters, we can listen to our mothers. Turns out drinking lots of fluids and getting rest are pretty much top-dog when it comes to cold remedies.