The Common Cold
Jul 7, 2007 by Michael Redbourn
School children typically catch between seven and ten colds a year and adults between two and five and common colds and flu can be transmitted by both the hands and by contact with commonly touched surfaces
A Cure ?
Researchers in the U.S. led by Dr Craig Coleman from the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy say that taking a herbal remedy called echinacea can more than halve the risk of catching a common cold.
The new research suggests that echinacea decreases the odds of developing a cold by 58% and the duration of colds by a day and a half and the experts believe that Echinacea which is a collection of nine related plant species that are indigenous to North America may work by boosting the body's immune system.
The researchers combined the results of fourteen different studies on echinacea's anti-cold properties. In one of the 14 studies the researchers reviewed, echinacea was taken along with vitamin C and this combination reduced the incidence of colds by 86%.
When echinacea was used alone it reduced cold incidence by 65%.
Many Products Contain Echinacea
More than 800 products containing echinacea are presently available and different parts of the plant, the flower, the stem and the root are used in different products and the researchers say that more work is needed to check the safety of these different formulations.
Professor Ron Cutler of the University of East London said, "The true benefits and more importantly how the agents work remains unclear and further and better controlled actual clinical trials still have to be carried out”.
Professor Ronald Eccles who is the director of the Common Cold Centre at the University of Cardiff said the work was "a significant step in our battle against the common cold. Harnessing the power of our own immune system to fight common infections with herbal medicines such as echinacea is now given more validity with this interesting scientific evaluation of past clinical trials”.
Echinacea may reduce the duration of illness and decrease the severity of coughs, headaches and nasal congestion.
People with impaired immune function might benefit from taking echinacea during the winter months to prevent colds and flu but healthy people do not require such long term preventative use.
Continuous treatment with echinacea is not recommended and the benefits may only be effective for one or two weeks after which time people should stop taking it and give the immune system a week without it.
The results of this new study published in ‘The Lancet Infectious Diseases’ conflict sharply with other studies that showed no beneficial effects whatsoever from the use of echinacea.