advertisement



Q & A Library


Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Q
What's With Echinacea?
I am so confused about echinacea. I know you recommend it for colds, but in the past I’ve read that it really doesn’t help. Now, a new study says it does work. What do you make of the contradictory findings?
A
Answer (Published 8/7/2007)

Echinacea is a traditional herbal remedy prepared from the root and leaves of the purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea and related species. It stimulates the immune system and is used traditionally to prevent and treat common colds and other minor infections.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor for Supplements & Herbs - If you are interested in supplementing your diet, and want to take the mystery out of choosing vitamins, try Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor. Visit today for your free, personalized Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor Recommendation.

The latest word on echinacea, from a review of 14 earlier studies, concluded that the herbal remedy reduces the risk of catching a cold by 58 percent and shortens the duration of colds by 1.4 days. Researchers at the University of Connecticut and Hartford Hospital found that adults who took echinacea contracted only one to two colds per year instead of the usual two to four. Among those who took echinacea after catching cold, symptoms lasted four to six days instead of the more common five to seven days. The investigators also reported, however, that echinacea was less effective against rhinoviruses (the most common type of cold virus) than it was against other cold viruses.

Most of the research on echinacea has been done in Germany and has confirmed the herb's antiviral, antibacterial and immunity-enhancing properties. However, until the publication of the Connecticut study, much of the U.S. research yielded mixed results, especially on its use as a preventative measure. The last well-publicized study, from the University of Virginia School of Medicine, found that echinacea neither prevented colds nor decreased symptoms. Although this was a well-designed study, the doses used may have been too low to have a beneficial effect. Other problems with past research have been failure to control for the species of echinacea used (purpurea vs, angustifolia), the part(s) of the plant used (whole plant vs. root or leaves), the method of extraction, and the method of delivery (capsules, tinctures, extracts, etc.).

I doubt that either the Virginia or Connecticut findings will be the last word on the subject. We need more well designed studies testing different species of echinacea, different doses and different preparations to determine how effective this traditional remedy really is. In the meantime, echinacea is a worthwhile first-line of treatment for the common cold, sore throats, and episodes of low resistance. The recommended adult dose is two capsules of freeze-dried extract or one teaspoon of the tincture in a little warm water four times a day. Half this dose is enough when you're taking echinacea to enhance immunity in the absence of infection.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle, LLC on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being
in just eight weeks!
Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!
 

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe
Wellness Guide

Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid
Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you
and their corresponding answers
from Dr. Weil.

 
Copyright © 2014 Weil Lifestyle, LLC
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here