Allergist and Immunologist Questions Common Cold

Does echinacea work?

Does echinacea really help with a cold? Should it be taken daily or only when you have a cold?

12 Answers

Depends on how you define "really works." It is not harmful and can contribute to better functioning immune system. However, if you expect the turn off the cold symptoms in 24-48hrs just because you started to take it, you will be disappointed. Remaining on it during the cold flu season daily (similar approach with vitamin C) may prove to be more beneficial than as needed use. 

Hope that helps, 

Monika Korff, MD
Yes it does! Echinacea has immune stimulating properties and anti-viral properties. Historically, it used to be used for sepsis. Because of its stimulant properties, it should only be taken when you feel a cold coming on or are caregiving for a sick person. The properties that give the plant these abilities are only produced when the plants are stressed or exposed
to environmental changes. So, finding a good source is very important when choosing herbal support. A good naturopathic physician or registered herbalist will be able to direct you to high-quality sources.
Yes, echinacea does work. It can be taken as a preventative herbal supplement taken daily or weekly (like a tea) or used when you have a cold (as an extract form).
Echinacea works best preventatively, or at the very first onset of symptoms. Echinacea will help to reduce the intensity and duration of the sickness.

Debbie Rice, ND, MPH
Yes, echinacea can help with a cold due to its ability to boost the immune system. You should be careful using echinacea if you suffer from any autoimmune disorders. Most individuals tend take echinacea during the winter months to prevent colds, however, you should consult with your physician to determine if echinacea is right for you and how long you as an individual should take it.
Yes, Echinacea works. I however know that when you treat the person to prevent it, then you can stay well
There is really no solid scientific evidence that Echinacea has any benefit with upper respiratory infections.
Echinacea works wonderfully to help relieve a cold but only for certain people and better when combined with other plants rather than on its own.

It shouldn't be used daily as a supplement because it stimulates the immune system. Only when needed.
Yes, it really does help with cold prevention and treatment. See abstract below from PubMed.

Holist Nurs Pract. 2016 Jan-Feb;30(1):54-7. doi: 10.1097/HNP.0000000000000130.

Echinacea purpurea: A Proprietary Extract of Echinacea purpurea Is Shown to be Safe and Effective in the Prevention of the Common Cold

The research study in this review represents the largest clinical trial to date that evaluated the safety and efficacy of Echinacea purpurea for prophylactic treatment of the common cold, in addition to investigating its risk-benefit in a long-term treatment period. The clinical application of the proprietary standardized Echinacea purpurea extract(Echinaforce) demonstrated efficacy as a preventive cold treatment option over a 4-month duration. This study showed that Echinacea’s long-term prevention was associated with a reduction in the total number of cold episodes, a reduction in the number of days with colds, and a reduction in cold episodes requiring additional medication. Furthermore, the Echinacea test agent inhibited virally confirmed colds, exhibited maximal effects on recurrent infections, and demonstrated that its preventive effects increased relative to therapy compliance and adherence to the protocol. In summary, Echinacea purpurea when taken as recommended for the prevention of the common cold appears to provide a positive risk to benefit ratio.
In recent studies, echinacea has been shown to only work at the onset of the cold. When taken at the onset of a cold, it only shortens the duration of a cold by 1 to 2 days.
Echinacea is an immune modulating herb and should not be taken daily. It is quite effective and proven in a plethora of peer review studies. Not all herbs are indicated for every person. To learn more, please schedule a consultation at 480.361.4005
Hello.. thank you for contacting me.. &.. to answer your question... Echinacea.. has been found to protect healthy cells from viral and bacterial infection .. it does this by stimulating the activity of the immune system .. in general .. helping the immune system to identify & attack pathogens & toxins..
it can take a few weeks to build up the immunity enhancing effects.. however.. it is helpful in lessening the severity of colds & the flu.. while also.. helping to speed up the recovery time.. however .. people with autoimmune disorders should use under the supervision of a physician ...

I hope this helps & you have a wonderful day