The Effectiveness of Echinacea in the Treatment of the Common Cold
Since ancient times humans have been using herbal medicine to treat and ward off any potential illnesses. One such herb is called Echinacea. It is part of the daisy family and is believed to treat and prevent the common cold. There have been many studies done to find out whether or not the Echinacea plant is efficient in being used as an herbal medicine. Skeptics and believers alike have done many clinical trials. Though there are many people who use Echinacea, how many of them truly know that it works for their symptoms? Does it really help to treat and prevent the severity and duration of the common cold? (109 words)
The Effectiveness of Echinacea for the Treatment of the Common Cold: A Review of the Literature
We call it the “common cold” for good reason. There are over one billion colds in the United States each year. The common cold generally involves a runny nose, nasal congestion, and sneezing. You may also have a sore throat, cough, headache, or other symptoms. Over 200 viruses can cause a cold. The cold can last anywhere from seven to ten days, depending on the type of virus one is infected with. The usual treatment of a cold is plenty of rest and fluids. Most people follow that advice along with an over the counter medicine to ease their symptoms, but some supplement that with an herbal remedy called Echinacea. Before examining some of the literature on the Echinacea, it is necessary to understand it. Echinacea is a part of the daisy family and is often called “purple flower” or “cone flower” because of its color and shape. Most would not necessarily recognize it in its natural, wild form. The flower is native to the north eastern parts of the United States and any open, wooded area. Native Americans thought that Echinacea had many healing properties and nowadays it is believed to have many immune boosting powers. It is usually taken in a pill form from the dried extract of the actual plant. (Echinacea. (2011). Retrieved from http://www.drugs.com/mtm/echinacea.html) The botanical genus Echinacea is native to North America, where indigenous peoples used various Echinacea preparations for many illnesses. However, much of the foundational biomedical research on echinacea was done in Germany, where the plant was introduced in the 1920s and used for various illnesses, including respiratory infection (Echinacea (2011))
Critical Review of Barrett, Brown, and Munch (2010)
In the study, researchers Bruce Barrett and Roger Brown took 719 patients between ages 12 and 80. These people were separated into four groups: One group received a placebo (blinded), one received no pills, one received Echinacea pills (blinded), and the last received Echinacea pills (un-blinded, open label) (pg 769). Of the 719 patients enrolled, 713 completed the protocol. Mean age was 33.7 years, 64% were female, and 88% were white. The mean severity was 236 and 258 for the blinded and unblinded Echinacea groups, respectively; 264 for the blinded placebo group; and 286 for the no-pill group. Mean illness duration in the blinded and unblinded Echinacea groups was 6.34 and 6.76 days, respectively, compared with 6.87 days in the blinded placebo group and 7.03 days in the no-pill group (pg 769). A comparison of the blinded groups showed an insignificant 0.53-day benefit.
The authors concluded that illness duration and severity were not statistically significant with Echinacea compared with placebo. These results do not support the ability of this dose of the Echinacea formulation to substantively change the course of the common cold. Critical Review of Barren, Locket, Maberry (2002)
The second study involved treatment of the cold with unrefined Echinacea. It was a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled experiment. Unrefined Echinacea means it is just dried and the whole-flower is used. At the University of Wisconsin 148 students had a recent...
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