Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

Select An Article
Font Size

Echinacea for the Common Cold

Echinacea is an herbal remedy people often use to treat the common cold. Many people believe that the plant can boost the immune system and reduce the severity or length of colds. Echinacea is one of the best-selling herbal products in the U.S.

But despite its popularity, some recent studies of echinacea for the common cold have not found that it helps. If echinacea does have a benefit, many researchers feel that it has not been proven.

Recommended Related to Cold & Flu

When Healthy Habits Backfire

When it comes to healthy habits, can there be too much of a good thing? Absolutely. Eating wholesome foods helps keep you healthy, but overeating will make you fat and prone to illness. Exercise helps keep you fit, but working out too hard or too often can cause injury and fatigue. Of course, these are only two of the most obvious examples of how healthy habits can backfire. Here are seven more: 1. Cleaning your kitchen. No doubt about it -- a dirty kitchen can raise the risk of contracting...

Read the When Healthy Habits Backfire article > >

What Is Echinacea?

Echinacea is a flowering plant that grows throughout the U.S. and Canada. There are nine species. Some of the plant's common names are the purple coneflower or black-eyed Susan. The leaves, stems, flower, and roots may be used to produce supplements, liquid extracts, and teas. People have used echinacea as a remedy in the Americas for centuries.

Echinacea for the Common Cold: Does It Work?

Studies of echinacea for the common cold have had mixed results. Extracts of echinacea do seem to have an effect on the immune system. Studies have shown that it increases the number of white blood cells and boosts the activity of other immune cells.

But these effects may not translate into an actual benefit when it comes to fighting the common cold. A study published in 2005 in the New England Journal of Medicine found that echinacea was no more effective than a placebo in preventing colds. It also did not reduce the severity of cold symptoms.

Two studies funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine also did not find any benefit from echinacea for the common cold in either children or adults.

However, there are many variables in studying echinacea for the common cold. Studies have looked at different types and strengths of echinacea as well as different parts of the plant or root. This makes it hard to compare the results. It's possible that some formulations are better than others. Echinacea may also help against some viruses that cause colds but not others.

WebMD Medical Reference

Next Article:

Today on WebMD

neti pot
Slideshow
Chicken soup
Slideshow
 
Natural Cold Flu Remedies Slideshow
Slideshow
Syringes and graph illustration
TOOL
 
Natural Cold Flu Remedies Slideshow
Slideshow
blowing nose
Video
 
Allergy And Sinus Symptom Evaluator
Health Check
Boy holding ear
Article
 
woman receiving vaccine shot
Article
Bacterial or Viral Infection
Video
 
How To Calm Your Cough
Quiz
Sore Throat
Slideshow
 

WebMD Special Sections