Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Echinacea may prevent colds

Echinacea Could Cut Chance Of Catching Cold By More Than Half, Study Suggests ScienceDaily 6/25/07 ""Echinacea may not only help reduce the symptoms of a cold but may help prevent infection with some cold viruses...People who took echinacea had a 58 percent lower risk of catching a cold, according to the researchers, who did not study the herb's effects directly but looked at the results of 14 studies in an approach called a meta-analysis...Dr. Craig Coleman of the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy, who led the research, cautioned that the studies only involved 1,600 people. They also involved various echinacea products, so it was still difficult to know for sure if and how echinacea might work to prevent colds..."Someone needs to do a really large, well-done, randomized trial. That is unlikely to occur because there is a lack of funding," Coleman said...drug companies cannot patent such a widely used herbal product, he noted...In 2005, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found echinacea was of no benefit in stopping colds. Coleman said it only looked at part of the picture...it also appeared as if echinacea reduced the duration of a cold by 1.4 days on average...Patients with autoimmune diseases such as lupus and multiple sclerosis should be particularly careful, he said. In addition, echinacea affects a liver enzyme that breaks down some drugs, so using it with prescription medications could cause drug interactions."

The echinacea debate continues.

Personally I think I've had better luck with things like Cold FX (polyfuranosyl-pyranosyl-saccharides of ginseng) and lately with ImmunExtra (Phenylpropanoid Polysaccharide Complex found in certain pine cones)- both of which I have no ties to. But of course how do you really know these work? That's the rub. Did I get less colds because of them... or for some other reason? Anyway the research behind immunomodulatory effects of polysaccharides seems to grow. It is likely that the polysaccharides in echinacea are some of the key compounds that are helping fight off colds. Likewise for astralagus, yogurt, mushrooms (shiitake, maitake, etc), oats, larch arabinogalactan ,etc -interesting pattern right? A better discussion and topic of research then might be what types of polysaccharides at what doses are optimal for long term human health.

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