Questionable Numbers for a Questionable Remedy | Science News

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Math Trek

Questionable Numbers for a Questionable Remedy

Echinacea might be useful as a cold remedy or preventative, but science hasn't shown it yet

2:38am, December 17, 2007

When you first feel the sniffles and wonder what to grab from your medicine cabinet, perhaps you should first check some numbers. Especially if one of your choices is echinacea.

The evidence on whether echinacea helps fight colds has been confusing. A 2005 study concluded that the herb doesn't help, but a few months ago, a team of pharmacists claimed that it decreases the odds of getting a cold by 58 percent and reduces the length of colds by one to four days.

The evidence favoring echinacea is not as rosy as the second study might suggest, however. For one thing, the statement that echinacea decreases th

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