Echinacea only offers modest benefit in common cold: study

In a large clinical trial involving more than 700 adults and children researchers showed that the popular herbal remedy Echinacea can cut only half a day from a week long common cold. Echinacea has been marketed for a long time for the common cold. Echinacea, also known as purple coneflower has been shown to have benefits in some earlier studies while some show no benefits.

The trial was funded by the National Center of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health. The center, set up to test herbs and other alternative health remedies, has spent $6.8 million testing Echinacea since 2002. Dr. Bruce Barrett and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin for the study used newspaper ads and posters to find volunteers with colds in the Madison, Wis., area. Patients with ages ranging from 12 to 80 took either Echinacea tablets or a dummy pill or no treatment at all. Those among the Echinacea arm were given equivalent of 10 grams of dried Echinacea root the first day and 5 grams the next four days. Twice a day, they graded their symptoms until their cold was gone.

Although there were benefits with Echinacea, it was not statistically significant meaning they could have occurred by chance. Authors write, “…However, the trends were in the direction of benefit [with Echinacea], amounting to an average half-day reduction in the duration of a week-long cold, or an approximate 10 percent reduction in overall severity.” Mark Blumenthal, executive director of the American Botanical Council, which follows research on herbal products said, “It’s not a compelling result in either direction.” Blumenthal added that the study was well designed, used a good quality product at a reasonable dosage and tested Echinacea in a real-world setting, rather than giving colds to research volunteers.

The results were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. National Center of Complementary and Alternative Medicine director Dr. Josephine Briggs, said there are no plans to support more human research on Echinacea. She said, “I think what we’re seeing is pretty clear. If there’s a benefit of Echinacea, it’s very modest.” Dr. Ronald Turner, of the University of Virginia School of Medicine who has earlier led another study on Echinacea that yielded negative results said, “There’s nothing that’s going to make it go away.”

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Mandal, Ananya. (2018, August 23). Echinacea only offers modest benefit in common cold: study. News-Medical. Retrieved on November 20, 2019 from

  • MLA

    Mandal, Ananya. "Echinacea only offers modest benefit in common cold: study". News-Medical. 20 November 2019. <>.

  • Chicago

    Mandal, Ananya. "Echinacea only offers modest benefit in common cold: study". News-Medical. (accessed November 20, 2019).

  • Harvard

    Mandal, Ananya. 2018. Echinacea only offers modest benefit in common cold: study. News-Medical, viewed 20 November 2019,


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News-Medical.Net.
Post a new comment
You might also like... ×
Discovery of first blue light emitting South American insect