Talk about your double standards--a new study finds that a popular herbal remedy does for the cold what a common prescription drug does for the flu.
But while the risky med Tamiflu is celebrated as a first-line treatment for flu, the researchers behind the new study have declared echinacea to be ineffective for cold relief.
It's more proof that herbal remedies are the Rodney Dangerfields of the medical world--they don't get no respect. And as this new study shows, that's not about to change anytime soon.
Researchers divided 700 patients with cold symptoms into four groups: One set of patients was given echinacea and told it was echinacea. A second set was given echinacea and not told whether it was the remedy or a placebo. A third group was given a placebo, while a fourth got nothing at all.
The echinacea patients seemed to get a boost--but only a tiny one. They had a 10 percent reduction in the severity of cold symptoms, and their colds lasted 7-10 hours shorter on average, according to the study in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The researchers say that's not a significant difference--and they're right, it's not.
So here's the million-dollar question: Why the heck is Tamiflu such a big deal?
Most of the studies have found only the slightest of decreases in flu duration, and one major study published in 2009 found that it reduced the illness in otherwise healthy adults by just .55 days, or roughly 13 hours.
It also comes with a risk of nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea--and some patients have experienced bizarre and even suicidal thinking and behavior.
Yet somehow, ordinary echinacea gets written off for colds... while this risky drug is treated as some kind of miracle cure for flu.
The truth is, any "treatment" that only reduces symptoms by about half a day isn't much of a treatment at all.
But echinacea can actually do so much better than that--because other studies have found that this safe herbal remedy can dramatically reduce your risk of catching the cold, and decrease the length and severity when you do get sick.
A 2007 analysis of 14 studies found that echinacea reduced cold duration by 1.4 days--and those who took it when they weren't ill were 58 percent less likely to get sick in the first place.
In other words, echinacea clearly isn't for the cold what Tamiflu is for the flu--because unlike Tamifiu, echinacea is safe... and it actually works too.