And it fits in a vase! (Sorry, John.) Echinacea, or purple coneflower, was widely panned after a rock-solid controlled study proved its inefficacy in 2005.
You can put away your Puffs: echinacea is the toast of the sniffle set again.
In a meta-analysis of fourteen studies and a whole bunch of people (okay, 1,630 for those who like numbers), scientists found that echinacea does, in fact, reduce both cold infection rates (by 58%) and duration (by 1.44 days).
There are three different parts to the echinacea plant (you know, leaf, stem, flower…) This does appear to make a difference in effectiveness. There are also three different species of echinacea, and there are three different substances in the plant that are thought to be the active ingredient.
There are 800 different echinacea products made from these three different parts and/or three different species and/or three different extracts, and they come in teas, drops, powders and pills. Good luck trying each one – my advice is to be a princess (or prince) and buy the best. You only get a cold a few times a year (I hope), so spend the extra cash and you’re likely to get a better product. Or check out online customer reviews at sites like Epinions.
The reason why echinacea does…and doesn’t…work:
There are over 200 different cold viruses. That’s why you always catch the common cold and that’s why there’s no cure. Echinacea seems to be less effective on induced colds (scientists use rhinovirus to induce a cold).
The great thing is that whether or not you take echinacea, your body will develop immunity to any cold virus that infects you. The not-so-great thing is that after you get your first one, you still have 199 or so to go. But, since the average person gets between 2 and 4 colds a year, by the time you’re about 50, there shouldn’t be many more to go. Instead, you can concentrate on building up immunity to every flu virus in existence. Isn’t that awesome?