This New York Times article tells us of yet another study which shows that using a popular herbal remedy for colds is just a waste of time and money.
The study, being published today in The New England Journal of Medicine, involved 437 people who volunteered to have cold viruses dripped into their noses. Some swallowed echinacea for a week beforehand, others a placebo. Still others took echinacea or a placebo at the time they were infected.
Then the subjects were secluded in hotel rooms for five days while scientists examined them for symptoms and took nasal washings to look for the virus and for an immune system protein, interleukin-8. Some had hypothesized that interleukin-8 was stimulated by echinacea, enabling the herb to stop colds.
But the investigators found that those who took echinacea fared no differently from those who took a placebo: they were just as likely to catch a cold, their symptoms were just as severe, they had just as much virus in their nasal secretions, and they made no more interleukin-8.
Some researchers say still further investigation is needed, with stronger doses and with echinacea species and preparations different from those used in this study. But Dr. Stephen E. Straus, director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the government agency that sponsored the new research, says he for one is satisfied that echinacea is not an effective cold remedy.
“This paper says it will not pre-empt a common cold, and it stands on top of prior studies saying it doesn’t treat an established cold,” he said, adding, “We’ve got to stop attributing any efficacy to echinacea.”
When I first married Anne she was very into the herbal supplement scene and whenever I’d catch a cold she’d try to get me to take echinacea to treat it. Being skeptical, but open minded I went ahead and tried it a couple of times and found that it made absolutely no difference in how long my colds lasted or how severe they were. After coming across similar studies to the above we’ve stopped trying to use herbal supplements to deal with our maladies simply because my own experience in combination with said studies shows there’s nothing to the claims. Yet the herbal supplement industry, which is completely unregulated by the FDA, continues to put out the same supplements over and over again with increasingly ridiculous claims and new labels and generates billions of dollars in profit by peddling, in essence, snake oil.
Pay close attention to any of the amazing diet pill ads you see on television, particularly the one that costs $153 a bottle, and you’ll note disclaimers coming out of your ass by the second. The most prominent of which states that you should use the pill “in conjunction with ANY sensible diet and exercise plan.” Of course, if you were already on a sensible diet and exercise plan, you probably wouldn’t need the fucking pill in the first place. You’ll also note the disclaimer that states that NONE of these claims in the ad has been verified or investigated by the FDA. Most of those different products all come from the same company and are largely the same set of herbal ingredients in varying amounts and differing shiny labels. Quit wasting your money on them, they don’t do jack shit.