Q: Dear Dr. Mao,
Is it true that if you take echinacea at the first sign of a cold, you won’t get a full-blown cold?
A: Echinacea has been found to reduce the time needed to get well.
A study suggests that echinacea can sometimes stop a cold that is just starting. In one study, 120 people were given echinacea or a placebo as soon as they started showing signs of getting a cold.
Participants took either echinacea or a placebo every 2 hours for 1 day, then 3 times a day for 9 more days. The results over the 10-day study period were promising. Fewer people in the echinacea group felt that their initial symptoms actually developed into “real” colds (40% of those taking echinacea versus 60% taking the placebo actually became ill). Also, among those who did come down with “real” colds, improvement in the symptoms started sooner in the echinacea group (4 days instead of 8 days). Both of these results were statistically significant and strongly suggest echinacea’s ability to shorten the duration of colds.