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Is Echinacea Really a Cure-All for Colds?

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Is Echinacea Really a Cure-All for Colds?Moyo Studio - Getty Images

In capsule, dropper or tea form, echinacea is purported to strengthen your immunity. Proponents also argue that it can prevent and curtail colds – oh, and treat STIs. There’s more: because some common colds are, in fact, coronaviruses, some say echinacea can battle Covid, too.

It's time to look at the research to find out what's fact and what's fiction.

What's True

Echinacea’s many supposed benefits have been studied – but ‘a lot of the studies have been on animals and cells in a lab’, explains registered dietitian Abby Langer. Though a 2020 review found that, while taking an echinacea supplement didn’t prevent upper-respiratory infection, doing so at the first signs of one may reduce symptoms.

What’s Promising

Research hasn’t proved that echinacea supps prevent Covid. But one study in the journal Frontiers In Pharmacology showed that five months’ supplementation resulted in a 48% reduction in Covid infections. However, study subjects took 2,400mg per day, which is larger than the dose in most over-the-counter products.

What Looks Unlikely

Echinacea supplements probably won’t do anything for STIs. The myth makes the rounds in homeopathic circles, and the little research that exists is on varying dosages. Beware any online misinformation stating that echinacea treats herpes, HIV/Aids or UTIs. There’s no consistent research yet.

The Takeaway

Taking an echinacea supp within the first day of noticing symptoms may lessen your cold or flu, says Brian St Pierre, director of nutrition at Precision Nutrition. Still, stick with proven preventative measures: wash your hands throughout the day, sleep well and eat a high-nutrient diet. It’s not revolutionary – but it is foolproof.

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