Common Cold :: Echinacea can prevent a cold

Echinacea, a medicinal herb, and other herbal echinacea supplements can reduce the risk of catching a coomon cold by 58 percent and the duration of colds by a day-and-a-half, confirmed by researchers.

The study published on Sunday in the July issue of the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

The study is a “meta-analysis” comparing the outcome of 14 published trials using Echinacea. Experts believe echinacea, a collection of nine related plant species indigenous to North America, may work by boosting the body’s immune system.

One of the trials combined with Echinacea with vitamin C, which showed the two together reduced the incidence of a cold by 86 percent. The analysis was led by Dr. Craig Coleman of University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy.

Echinacea, or purple coneflower, is a perennial herb of the Composite family, commonly known as the daisy family. Most often referred to as the purple coneflower, this hardy plant also known as Sampson root, Missouri snakeroot, and rudbeckia. The prominent, bristly seed head inspired the generic name of the plant, taken from the Greek word echinos meaning hedgehog.

Echinacea is a term for nine related daisy-like plant species that are native to North America and feature in the traditional medicine of the Sioux and other Plains Indians as remedies for infection, snakebites and rabies. Other names for the plant are black Sampson, Kansas snakeroot and purple coneflower.

The researchers’ report said: ?With over 200 viruses capable of causing the common cold, echinacea could have modest effect against rhinovirus but marked effects against other viruses.? Coleman’s team said they had counted more than 800 products containing Echinacea, which come in the form of tablets, extracts, fresh juice, tincture and tea.

Three of the nine species are commonly used (Echinacea Purpurea, E. Angustifolia and E. Pallida), and different parts of the plant are used for different products.

Its three major ingredients are alkamides, chicoric acid and polysaccharides, but it is unclear whether these work by acting separately or together, or with the help of other constituents. Researchers said more work was needed to check the safety of these different formulations.