You may have read in the papers of a trial reported in the New England Journal of Medicine which concluded that Echinacea has no effect on the prevention and treatment of the common cold. While naturopaths welcome rigorous scientific review of herbal and other natural remedies, this study may not reveal the whole picture.
The participants of the study were given an artificially induced infection after taking a dose of Echinacea for 7 days before and 5 days after the infection.
Unfortunately, it appears there are at least two flaws in the experiment. Firstly, the dose of Echinacea was less than one sixth of the recommended dosage, and secondly the Echinacea herb used was of unknown quality. They didn’t ask a herbalist to be involved in the experiment. As herbalists we are trained for four years. Not only is the correct therapeutic dosage important in treating and illness, the quality of the herb (or any vitamin or drug) is paramount. If it is an inferior product you cannot expect results.
This is why we only stock herbs that have been proven to contain the correct amounts of therapeutic constituents. Over recent years (and especially since the Pan debacle) the good herbal and vitamin manufacturers (and we only stock the best!) have risen to the challenge of adopting best practice procedures in procuring and manufacturing.
The reference for the trial is New England Journal of Medicine 2005; 353(4):341-348