Popular Herbal Supplement
Echinacea Does Little For
Common Cold - JAMA

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Echinacea, the top-selling herbal supplement, apparently has little effect on the common cold, according to a study published Thursday in the Archives of Family Medicine.
Echinacea, an extract from the coneflower, was no better at preventing colds than a placebo, the study said.
The study is among various research into the effectiveness of alternative medicine being published this week by the Journal of the American Medical Association and its sister publications, including the Archives of Family Medicine.
Echinacea has gained vast popularity as the number of Americans using herbal therapies has grown to almost one in five, according to a national study published this year.
Echinacea comes in pill or tincture form and often contains two or more species, even using the root. It may be mixed with other ingredients such as zinc.
But scientists are unsure which of the eight species of plants that provide echinacea might be most effective, what part of the plant should be used and how high a dosage is needed.
Research in Germany -- home of most of the research on echinacea -- suggests it increases the number of white blood cells and buoys the body's ability to gobble up invading organisms.
But according to today's study, also by doctors in Germany, there were no significant differences among the people given echinacea or a placebo.
The study of 289 healthy people used two species, Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea purpurea. One group of participants took the angustifolia, one took the purpurea and a third took a placebo.
The study's authors emphasized the need for more research.
Dr. Bruce Goldberg, an associate professor of family medicine at Oregon Health Sciences University who is studying the herb, cautioned against putting too much weight on the study.
"We have very little information on which to base any sort of strategy," he said. "We don't know what dose, what preparation, for how long, whether there might be some populations of individuals who benefit from this and others who don't."