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Echinacea Study Design Inconsistent with Recommended Use

April 28, 1999: Preliminary reports about a six-month study conducted at Bastyr University suggest that echinacea was ineffective in preventing colds and flu when taken long-term on a daily basis. According to the investigators, the results also imply that people in the study who took echinacea actually developed more symptoms of respiratory infection than those who did not take the herb. Results of the study, which have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, will be presented at the International Conference on Integrative Medicine, to be held April 30 through May 2, 1999 in Seattle. Bastyr University has not released complete study details. HRF is attempting to get further information from Bastyr, after which we will be better able to comment on the quality and relevance of the study and its results.

Long-term, daily use of echinacea for prevention of colds and flu is not consistent with traditional use of the herb or with modern European use. In Europe, practitioners recommend that people take echinacea at the first sign of a cold or flu to lessen the severity and shorten the duration of illness. Clinical studies in which people took echinacea at the first sign of a cold or flu have shown that the herb is effective in reducing symptoms, shortening the duration of illness, and even preventing the development of a "full-blown" cold. Results of studies such as the Bastyr study, which have investigated the effects of long-term use of echinacea in preventing colds and flu, have generally been less positive. The German Commission E recommends limiting use of echinacea to eight weeks.

"There's plenty of evidence that echinacea stimulates the immune system, and direct evidence that it's useful when taken at the first sign of a cold or flu." said HRF President Rob McCaleb. "We have not yet seen the Bastyr study, so we can't comment on its quality. And even if the study is well done, one study does not constitute conclusive evidence about the preventive use of echinacea."

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