German study finds Echinacea beneficial in the common cold





Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Echinacea Vitamin C Colds and Flu
Professional Data: Echinacea Vitamin C Colds and Flu


Americans spend over one billion dollars annually on nonprescription treatments for coughs and colds, including antipyretics, antihistamines, cough preparations, and decongestants in various combinations. Although these agents may help the symptoms of colds and flu to subside gradually, they do not address the underlying condition, including immune and nutrition status. Also, many of the agents used conventionally for colds and flu may cause unwanted side effects such as insomnia, hyper-excitability, dry mouth, constipation, drowsiness, or interact with prescription medications. As an alternative to standard over-the-counter cold remedies, different preparations of the herb Echinacea are well marketed.

The benefits of Echinacea and its usefulness in treating the common cold have been debated as there have been conflicting results from numerous studies. Yet, Echinacea remains one of the top selling herbs worldwide. Research from animal studies suggests that Echinacea activates white blood cells to scavenge for bacteria, viruses and other invaders in.1. However, many studies have analyzed Echinacea's role in treating colds and flu with mixed results, depending on the Echinacea preparation or product used. There has also been considerable debate on the length of time to take Echinacea and whether or not it is safe for long-term use.

In Germany, researchers designed a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, reporting on Echinacea as a treatment for the common cold. In this study, 80 individuals with early symptoms of the common cold were recruited and placed into either a placebo group or a group given an Echinacea purpurea extract. The measurement used was the number of days that the participants experienced the normal cold symptoms. At the end of the study, the participants who had been given the Echinacea purpurea extract had experienced symptoms for 6 days while the placebo group had experienced symptoms for 9 days. The researchers concluded from this outcome that the Echinacea extract used “was well tolerated and clinically effective in alleviating symptoms more rapidly than placebo in patients with a common cold.”1


1. Schulten B, Bulitta M, Ballering-Bruhl B. Efficacy of Echinacea purpurea in patients with a common cold. A placebo-controlled, randomised, double-blind clinical trial. Arzneimittelforschung. 2001;51(7):563-8.