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Can Echinacea Help You Fight the Common Cold?

Health + Wellness
Can Echinacea Help You Fight the Common Cold?
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By Rachael Link, MS, RD

Echinacea is a group of flowering plants that belong to the daisy family, along with plants like sunflowers, chicory, chamomile, and chrysanthemums.


There are different species, with Echinacea purpurea being popular. Other species include Echinacea pallida, Echinacea laevigata, and Echinacea tennesseensis.

The leaves and roots of the plant have long been used in traditional medicine to reduce inflammation and enhance immune function.

It's popular as a natural remedy to reduce cold and flu symptoms like stuffiness, sneezing, and sinus pressure. However, you may wonder whether this herb deserves a spot in your medicine cabinet and if it really does prevent and treat the common cold.

This article looks at the safety and effectiveness of using echinacea to treat the common cold.

Does it Work?

Research has turned up mixed results on echinacea's ability to reduce symptoms of the common cold.

For instance, one review of 16 studies concluded that the herb was more effective than a placebo at preventing and treating upper respiratory infections like the cold.

Another review of 14 studies found that it reduced the odds of developing the common cold by 58% and decreased the duration of symptoms by 1.4 days.

Similarly, in one study in 80 people, taking echinacea at the onset of cold symptoms reduced the duration of symptoms by 67%, compared with a placebo.

In a review including nearly 2,500 people, echinacea extract was found to reduce the risk of recurrent respiratory tract infections and decrease complications like pneumonia, tonsillitis, and ear infections.

Multiple test-tube and animal studies have also concluded that the extract may enhance immune function by increasing the production of specific immune cells in the body.

Not only that, but it could also help treat symptoms of the flu.

In one study in 473 people with the flu, drinking an echinacea-based beverage was as effective as an antiviral medication at treating symptoms. Yet, the study was funded by the drug manufacturer which may have affected results.

On the other hand, a large review of 24 studies found that echinacea didn't significantly prevent cold symptoms. However, it did find weak evidence that this herb might reduce the incidence of the common cold.

Still, according to the review, many studies on the effectiveness of echinacea have a high risk of bias and are underpowered, meaning that the results may not be statistically significant.

Therefore, more high-quality research is needed to determine if this herb can help treat the common cold.

Summary

Some studies have observed that echinacea could aid in preventing and treating the common cold, but more research is needed.

Potential Side Effects

Although echinacea is generally considered safe when used as directed, it has been associated with potential side effects, including stomach pain, nausea, rash, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the skin.

Additionally, while studies show that the herb can be used safely by women who are pregnant and breastfeeding, it should be used with caution until more high-quality human studies are available.

In children, echinacea may be associated with an increased risk of rash, which is why it's often not recommended for use in children under 12 years of age.

Furthermore, if you have any underlying health conditions or take any medications, it's best to consult with your healthcare provider before using echinacea.

Summary

Echinacea is generally safe and associated with minimal adverse side effects. Children, people with underlying health conditions, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should exercise caution when using it.

How to Use

Echinacea is widely available at health stores, pharmacies, and online in tea, tablet, and tincture form.

Although there is no official recommended dosage for echinacea extract, most studies have evaluated the effects of dosages of 450–4,000 mg daily for up to 4 months.

Many capsules and supplements contain one or two types of echinacea root and are often combined with other ingredients like vitamin C or elderberry.

Echinacea tea is also available, which can contain up to 1,000 mg of the root per serving.

Regardless of which form you choose, it's best to start with a low dose and work your way up to assess your tolerance. If you notice any negative side effects, discontinue use and consult your healthcare provider.

When purchasing a supplement, look for products that have been tested by an independent third party.

Summary

Echinacea is found in tea, tincture, and capsule forms. Most studies have evaluated the effects of echinacea in doses of 450–4,000 mg daily for up to 4 months.

The Bottom Line

Echinacea is a powerful herb with potent medicinal properties.

Although some research has found that it might treat and prevent the common cold, other studies have concluded that it's unlikely to have any significant impact. Hence, more high-quality studies in humans are needed.

That said, echinacea is associated with minimal adverse effects on health and can be a great addition to your natural cold-fighting routine if you find it helpful.

Reposted with permission from Healthline. For detailed source information, please view the original article on Healthline.

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The world-famous wildlife broadcaster and his royal sidekick appear to have played an active role in the prize's inception, and media coverage has focused largely on them as the faces of the campaign.

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With more and more global attention on the climate crisis, celebrity endorsement of environmental causes has become more common. But why do environmental causes recruit famous faces for their campaigns? And what difference can it make?

'Count Me In'

"We need celebrities to reach those people who we cannot reach ourselves," says Sarah Marchildon from the United Nations Climate Change secretariat (UNFCCC) in Bonn, Germany.

Marchildon is a proponent of the use of celebrities to raise awareness of environmental causes. In addition to promoting a selection of climate ambassadors who represent the UN on sustainability issues, Marchildon's team has produced videos with well-known narrators from the entertainment world: among them, Morgan Freeman and Mark Ruffalo.

"We choose celebrities who have a lifestyle where they are already talking about these issues," Marchildon explains.

"Sometimes they reach out to us themselves, as David Attenborough did recently. And then they can promote the videos on their own social channels which reach more people than we do — for example, if they have 20 million followers and we have 750,000."

Environmental groups focused on their own domestic markets are also taking this approach. One Germany-based organization that uses celebrities in campaigns is the German Zero NGO. Set up in 2019, it advocates for a climate-neutral Germany by 2035.

German Zero produced a video in March 2020 introducing the campaign with "66 celebrities" that supported the campaign, among them Deutschland 83 actor Jonas Nay and former professional footballer Andre Schürrle. They solicit support as well as financial contributions from viewers.

"Count me in," they say, pointing toward the camera. "You too?"

"We are incredibly grateful for the VIPs in our videos," says German Zero spokeswoman Eva-Maria McCormack.

Assessing Success Is Complex

But quantifying the effectiveness of celebrity endorsement of campaigns is not a straightforward process.

"In order to measure effectiveness, first of all you need to define what is meant by success," says Alegria Olmedo, a researcher at the Zoology Department at the University of Oxford.

Olmedo is the author of a study looking at a range of campaigns concerning pangolin consumption, fronted by local and Western celebrities, in Vietnam and China. But she says her biggest stumbling block was knowing how to measure a campaign's success.

"You need a clear theory of change," explains Olmedo. "Have the celebrities actually helped in achieving the campaign's goals? And how do you quantify these goals? Maybe it is increased donations or higher engagement with a cause."

A popular campaign in China in recent years saw famous chefs Zhao Danian and Shu Yi pledge to abstain from cooking endangered wildlife. While the pledge achieved widespread recognition, both Olmedo and Marchildon say it's difficult to know whether it made any difference to people's actions.

"In life we see a thousand messages every day, and it is very hard to pinpoint whether one campaign has actually made a difference in people's behavior," she explains.

Awareness Is Not Enough

Many campaigns that feature celebrities focus on raising awareness rather than on concrete action — which, for researcher Olmedo, raises a further problem in identifying effectiveness.

"Reach should never be a success outcome," she says. "Many campaigns say they reached a certain number of people on social media. But there has been a lot of research that shows that simply giving people information does not mean they are actually going to remember it or act upon it."

But anecdotal evidence from campaigns may suggest reach can make an active difference.

"Our VIP video is by far the most watched on our social media channels," McCormack from German Zero says. "People respond to it very directly. A lot of volunteers of all ages heard about us through that video."

However, some marketing studies have shown that celebrity endorsement of a cause or product can distract from the issue itself, as people only remember the person, not the content of what they were saying.

Choosing the Right Celebrity

Celebrity choice is also very important. Campaigns that use famous faces are often aiming to appeal to members of the public who do not necessarily follow green issues.

For certain campaigns with clear target audiences, choosing a climate scientist or well-known environmentalist rather than a celebrity could be more appealing — Attenborough is a classic example. For others, images and videos involving cute animals may be more likely to get a message heard than attaching a famous face.

"We choose celebrities who have a lifestyle where they are already talking about these issues," says Marchildon from the UN. "You need figures with credibility."

McCormack cites the example of Katharine Hayhoe, an environmental scientist who is also an evangelical Christian. In the southern United States, Hayhoe has become a celebrity in her own right, appealing to an audience that might not normally be interested in the messages of climate scientists.

But as soon as you get a celebrity involved, campaigns also put themselves at risk of the whims of that celebrity. Prince William and younger members of the royal family have come under fire in recent years for alleged hypocrisy for their backing of environmental campaigns while simultaneously using private jets to fly around the world.

But Does It Really Work?

While environmental campaigns hope that endorsement from well-known figures can boost a campaign, there is little research to back this up.

"The biggest finding [from my study] was that we were unable to produce any evidence that shows that celebrity endorsement of environmental causes makes any difference," says Olmedo.

This will come as a blow to many campaigns that have invested time and effort into relationships with celebrity ambassadors. But for many, the personal message that many celebrities offer in videos like that produced by German Zero and campaigns like the Earthshot Prize are what counts.

The research may not prove this conclusively — but if the public believes a person they respect deeply personally cares about an important issue, they are perhaps more likely to care too.

"I personally believe in the power this can have," says Marchildon. "And if having a celebrity involved can get a single 16-year-old future leader thinking about environmentalist issues — that is enough."

Reposted with permission from DW.

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