Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Echinacea and the cold

By Jonathan M. Gitlin
Sunday, July 31, 2005

Echinacea and the cold

July just isn’t good for alternative therapies. At the beginning of the month I reported that, contrary to the opinions of both my mother and Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling, vitamin C (which I erroneously claimed was an amino acid) did nothing to ward off the common cold. Now, at the tail end of July, comes a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, regarding the second line in cold defense in the Gitlin household, echinacea.

A herbal remedy made from a purple flower native to North America, supporters claim it can treat colds and other infections by boosting the immune system. As a result, sneezing at home often resulted in being handed a little capsule of echinacea and a glass of orange juice as a panacea. Unlike the vitamin C report, this was an actual clinical study, where volunteers were taken to a hotel and treated with echinacea extracts or placebos, then exposed to rhinovirus type 39 for several days. Unfortunately for the proponents of this purple (derived) pill,
There were no statistically significant effects of the three echinacea extracts on rates of infection or severity of symptoms. Similarly, there were no significant effects of treatment on the volume of nasal secretions, on polymorphonuclear leukocyte or interleukin-8 concentrations in nasal-lavage specimens, or on quantitative-virus titer.

Going back to the scoreboard, alternative medicine is now 0-2 against the rhinovirus. It seems if you have the sniffles, fluids, decongestants and analgesics are still the best remedy.

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