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Echinacea for the Common Cold: Can Alternative Medicine Be Evidence-Based Medicine?

Ronald B. Turner, MD
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University of Virginia School of Medicine Charlottesville, VA 22908

Current Author Address: Ronald B. Turner, MD, University of Virginia School of Medicine, PO Box 800386, Charlottesville, VA 22908.

Ann Intern Med. 2002;137(12):1001-1002. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-137-12-200212170-00015
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Echinacea, a plant indigenous to the midwestern United States, was first used for medicinal purposes by Native Americans. By the end of the 19th century, echinacea was employed as a treatment for a variety of ailments, including the common cold. During the 20th century, U.S. interest in echinacea waned, but this remedy became popular in Europe, especially Germany. The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 removed much of the regulatory oversight from the marketing and sale of herbal remedies and has resulted in renewed interest in echinacea as a common cold treatment in the United States. Despite the long history and current popularity of echinacea as a common cold remedy, the scientific evidence of its efficacy is unconvincing. Studies of various echinacea preparations have reported beneficial effects on the common cold, but methodologic flaws have limited acceptance of these results (1).

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Echinacea for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2006;(1):CD000530.
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