Although you may have heard recent news that echinacea was found to be ineffective for combating colds, herbal experts say you’d be wise not to believe everything you hear without more careful analysis.
The widely publicized results of a clinical study that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine in July concluded that certain extracts of echinacea did not lower rates of infection or severity of symptoms of an induced cold virus in 399 college students, who were sequestered in individual hotel rooms for analysis.
Members of the herbal medicine community have pointed to several shortcomings in the study. “First, the extracts used in the study were made in a university lab,” said Wayne Silverman, chief administrative officer for the American Botanical Council. These extracts, he explained, are not comparable to any echinacea products on the market. Moreover, he says, the study dosage was likely inadequate: less than 1 gram daily compared with a minimum therapeutic dosage of 3 grams daily, as recommended by the National Health Products Directorate, the federal regulating authority for natural health products in Canada.
Finally, herbal advocates pointed out that study results may have been different had subjects with weaker immune systems, such as the elderly, been used rather than college students.