Magazine article Science News

Echinacea Disappoints: There's Still No Cure for the Common Cold

Magazine article Science News

Echinacea Disappoints: There's Still No Cure for the Common Cold

Article excerpt

A folk remedy touted as a cold treatment has failed its most recent--and possibly most exacting--test. Volunteers exposed to a cold virus and given the herbal supplement echinacea fared no better than did virus-exposed participants who received an inert substance, researchers report in the July 28 New England Journal of Medicine.

The U.S. study is the third in 3 years in which echinacea failed to alleviate colds in children or, as in this case, young adults. These findings run counter to earlier reports, most out of Europe, that echinacea revs up an immune response against cold viruses (SN: 3/27/99, p. 207).

For the new study, researchers recruited 399 young adults. Some received drops of Echinacea angustifolia extract and others got placebos. After a week, all volunteers received nasal sprays containing rhinovirus type 39, a common cold virus, and were sequestered in a hotel room for 5 days.

After exposure, volunteers getting echinacea continued to take it. Some participants getting the placebos were switched to echinacea, while others continued with the placebos.

None of it mattered, says study coauthor Ronald B. Turner of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. More than 80 percent of the people in each group became infected with the virus, and roughly three-fifths of each group showed cold symptoms within a week. The severity of the symptoms also was the same across the groups.

Furthermore, blood tests showed no significant immune boost from echinacea. …

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