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Echinacea

Echinacea Not Effective in Treating Children's Colds: New Study Results
December 2, 2003
Consumer Advisory

NCCAM-funded researchers at the University of Washington and Bastyr University have found that echinacea (Echinacea purpurea), an herb often used to treat colds (upper respiratory infections), is not effective in young children. The researchers reported that use of echinacea from the onset of symptoms did not lessen the number of days the colds lasted or the severity of symptoms.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, enrolled 524 children aged 2 to 11. The children were randomly assigned to receive either echinacea or a placebo at the onset of cold symptoms and twice a day for as long as the cold lasted, up to a maximum of 10 days. The echinacea preparation was a dried-pressed juice of the herb that had been used previously in a number of encouraging preliminary studies in Europe. Participants were enrolled for 4-month intervals and received treatment for up to three colds during that period. Data were analyzed for 707 colds (337 treated with echinacea and 370 treated with placebo) experienced by 407 children.

Overall, the researchers found that between those receiving echinacea and those receiving placebo at the onset of symptoms there was:

No difference in the duration of upper respiratory infection symptoms
No difference in the overall severity of symptoms
No difference in the number of days of fever
No difference in parents' assessment of severity of infection
No overall difference in side effects (adverse events); however, children taking echinacea were more likely to develop rashes than those taking placebo.
The researchers concluded that the "results do not support the use of echinacea for treatment of upper respiratory infections in children 2 to 11 years old." In addition, the researchers recommend more studies to look at other echinacea preparations or different doses or dosing schedules to determine if there is any possible role for echinacea in treating colds in children. They also suggest further research to determine whether echinacea has any role in preventing colds.

Echinacea species are flowering herbs native to North America. Echinacea is often used by consumers for the treatment and prevention of upper respiratory infections. It is one of the most commonly used herbs in the United States.

 

 
     
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