Q: Dear Dr. Mao,
Does the herb echinacea really help to alleviate cold symptoms?
A: Until the 1930s, echinacea was the number-one cold and flu remedy in the United States. It lost its popularity with the arrival of sulfa antibiotics. Ironically, sulfa antibiotics are as ineffective against colds as any other antibiotic, while echinacea does seem to be at least somewhat helpful.
This herb is thought to be an immune stimulant, a type of treatment not found in conventional medicine. Drugs attack infections, but echinacea appears to activate the body’s infection-fighting capacity. However, there is no evidence that echinacea strengthens or “nourishes” the immune system when taken over the long term. It probably just stimulates it into action in the short term. Indeed, long-term use of echinacea has not proved effective.
Clinical studies with various species of echinacea have found benefits in lessening the symptoms and duration of colds. In fact, one study of individuals with acute flu-like illnesses found that echinacea could significantly reduce cold symptoms of headache, lethargy, cough, and limb pain.
I suggest you discuss the possibility of taking echinacea with your physician before beginning to take it.
You can also try these specially formulated Traditions of Tao products helpful for cold and flu treatment: “Cold & Flu”, “Immunity”, “Perpetual Shield”, and “Chest Congestion”. Of course, discuss with your physician before beginning any new health regime.