News & Perspectives

Herbal Relief for the Common Cold

As you put away the heavy coats, you may think you've dodged the cold virus, at least until the fall. April, however, is a peak month for sniffles, sneezes, and sore throats. And although there's no cure yet, a growing body of evidence indicates that the herb echinacea really works against the common cold. "Echinacea may not prevent a cold," says herbal expert Varro Tyler, professor emeritus at Purdue University. "But taken at the first sign of illness, it may shorten the duration by two to four days."

The most recent study investigated a product called Esberitox, an herbal blend containing two types of echinacea, as well as white cedar and wild indigo. Compared with a sugar pill, Esberitox significantly reduced the severity of symptoms and the length of illness. It worked best when it was taken closest to the onset of symptoms (Current Medical Research and Opinion).

Echinacea is thought to stimulate the immune system so that it can better fight the cold virus. The herb may also attack the cold virus directly. It is less clear how white cedar and wild indigo combat colds or whether they offer cold-fighting advantages. Because echinacea affects immunity some experts caution those with an immune disorder such as AIDS or rheumatoid arthritis not to take it and others to limit use to eight weeks at a time.

Pure echinacea products, such as Echinaguard (Nature’s Way) and Echinaforce (Bioforce), have also proven useful in studies. There are many other effective brands of echinacea: Choose one that works for you. Liquids, tinctures, and pills may be equally beneficial. Esberitox, available at most health-food stores, comes in chewable tablets, a plus for those who don’t like swallowing pills or the taste of echinacea tinctures.

Suggested dose: Take echinacea (200 mg five times a day) or Esberitox (three tablets three times a day) at the first hint of a scratchy throat or other symptoms. Continue through the course of your cold.

Date Published: 07/13/2005
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