Natural Immune Booster

Can Echinacea Prevent or Help Treat the Common Cold and Flu?

Clinical studies suggest echinacea can help prevent and treat the common cold and seasonal flu.

Despite some controversy, echinacea can probably help prevent and treat the common cold and flu in adults. Rigorous reviews of clinical evidence suggest that echinacea is more effective than placebo in preventing colds and other upper respiratory infections and reducing the duration of symptoms:(49)

  • A Cochrane review published in 2006 found echinacea more effective than placebo in treating upper respiratory tract infections.
  • In 2007, The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal published an analysis of 14 clinical trials involving adults. It found that taking Echinacea purpurea both helped prevent a cold and decreased duration of symptoms.

Recent Clinical Evidence of Benefit

Since these reviews were published, a number of additional clinical trials on echinacea have been conducted with positive results:

Table 8: Clinical Studies on Using Echinacea for Colds & Flu
Study Details Results

Randomized, double-blind, multicenter, non-inferiority clinical trial (2015)(71)

473 patients with early flu symptoms were randomly assigned to receive either:(71)

  • Echinaforce Hotdrink made with standardized Echinacea purpurea extracts for 10 days
  • 5 days of oseltamivir (brand name Tamiflu®) followed by 5 days of placebo
  • Rate of complications than oseltamivir.(71)
  • Incidence of adverse side effects (e.g., nausea, vomiting).(71)

The echinacea formula was as effective as the conventional flu treatment with fewer complications and side effects.(71)

Comparative, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial (2015)(107)

177 adult patients with upper respiratory infections were randomly assigned to receive one of the following for 5 days:(107)

  • Kan Jang® made with standardized extracts of Echinacea purpurea and 2 other herbs
  • 5 days of a conventional cough medicine
  • Placebo
  • Symptoms.(107)

Both treatments relieved cough better than placebo. However, the echinacea-herbal formula worked faster than the conventional treatment.(107)

Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial (2012)(100)

175 intercontinental economy class air travelers were randomly assigned to receive one of the following for 14 days before and after travel:(100)

  • 1-2 echinacea tablets 3 times daily; 262.5 mg each made with extracts of Echinacea purpurea and E. angustifolia standardized to 4.4 mg active echinacea compound
  • 1-2 placebo tablets (made to match size and appearance of echinacea tablets) 3 times daily
  • Symptoms.(100)

Echinacea worked better than placebo in air travelers.(100)

Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial (2012)(108)

755 healthy adult participants, were randomly assigned to take either echinacea or placebo daily for 4 months:(108)

  • 0.9 mL of Echinaforce (made with extracts of Echinacea purpurea) drops 3 times daily (or 5 times a day during cold symptoms)
  • Placebo drops at same dosage levels

Participants kept daily diaries of symptoms and were followed up with monthly for nasal testing and to check the bottles for treatment compliance.(108)

  • Severity of symptoms.(108)
  • Incidence of infection.(108)

Echinacea safely and significantly worked better than placebo.(108)

Echinacea for Colds in Children

In children, echinacea may also help prevent colds, but expert analysis of the evidence is less conclusive on its benefit in treating colds in children.(49109)

Positive results include:

Table 9: Clinical Studies on Using Echinacea in Children
Study Details Results

Randomized, multicenter, placebo-controlled clinical trial (2009)(110)

154 children 12 years old or older with acute sore throats were treated with either:(110)

After 3 days, the echinacea and sage spray reduced symptoms in 63.8% of participants compared to 57.8% in the conventional treatment group.(110)

Randomized, comparative 8-week clinical trial (2014)(111)

100 healthy children ages 1-5 years old were given daily doses of either:(111)

  • Echinacea syrup (1 cc)
  • Montelukast (brand name Singulair®); 4 mg

Echinacea syrup significantly reduced the incidence of common cold compared to the conventional drug.(111)

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A Cochrane review is typically viewed as a gold standard: scientifically rigorous and comprehensive.
Bromhexine hydrochloride.(107)
An antimicrobial spray with local numbing effects.(110)
Salvia officinalis(46)