Archive for February, 2010

Echinacea for Colds and Flu????


I am often asked questions about taking echinacea. One standard question is: I am really worried about getting the flu and I have read that echinacea can prevent it or treat it. Does it?

THE FACTS: Echinecea is made from the Purple Flower plant. A number of people are just like you and take echinacea to prevent and treat flu and colds. The scientific evidence is mixed. Some studies show that taking echinecea at the start of a cold may decrease its duration and intensity. A review paper authored by scientists at the University of Connecticut evaluated 14 different trails. The conclusion was that echinacea can cut the risk of getting a cold by more than half and decrease the duration by 1.4 days. But, three of the 14 studies did not show any effect. Stanford University’s emeritus clinical professor, Dr. Wallace Sampson, criticized the paper because individual studies measured different things and “You can’t correct for that.” A study done at the University of Virginia published in the New England Journal of Medicine, did not find any clinically significant results with respect to infection, duration and intensity of symptoms. To be effective, you have to take echinacea immediately following exposure. To try to prevent colds and flu, you have to take it for a week prior to exposure. This might be helpful if you are going on a plane trip. If you decide to take echinacea, you may experience side effects as gastrointestinal discomfort (common).

WARNING: Echinacea is made from a plant called Purple Flower. People who are allergic to ragweed are often allergic to echinacea. If you take echinacea and get a rash or asthma, stop taking it and see your doctor. Who should not take echinacea? – Women who are pregnant or breast feeding and young children.

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