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Echinacea effective for kids?!

December 3rd, 2003 · No Comments

In today’s Seattle Times, a study done of 407 children at a dozen researchers in the Northwest concluded: Echinacea called ineffective remedy for kids’ colds

Children who took echinacea didn’t have colds for any shorter time, and their symptoms were just as bad as those who didn’t receive the herb, a new study found.

“For treatment, our results make it seem unlikely echinacea has benefits for children,” said Dr. James A. Taylor, lead researcher on the study and a University of Washington pediatrician.

In the study of 407 children, colds lasted an average of nine days. Echinacea also did not moderate the peak severity of the colds, the number of days children had their worst symptoms or the number of days they had fever, the researchers report in this week’s edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Children who took echinacea did have fewer recurrences of colds than those on placebos. But Taylor said cold prevention was not a focus of the study and the finding needs further analysis.

Echinacea, a perennial herb, is thought to stimulate immune cells called macrophages and neutrophils. It is sold in several over-the-counter cold preparations, including capsules, lozenges and liquid form.

The Seattle study is the first to look at echinacea’s effect on children’s colds. Several studies in Europe have shown that adults taking echinacea have shorter and less-severe colds, though some researchers have questioned the design of those studies. A small study in the United States last year showed that echinacea had little effect on colds…..

The researchers analyzed 707 colds in 407 children, ages 2 to 11 years; about half the colds were treated with an echinacea syrup and half with a placebo syrup.

“Despite multiple subanalyses, we did not find any group of children in whom echinacea appeared to have a positive effect,” the researchers said.

Taylor said it is possible echinacea would have helped the children had they started it earlier in their colds. Early symptoms, such as scratchy throat, often aren’t mentioned by children, he said.

Now I’ve heard from three different friends advice on how echinacea can prevent illness. Each of these friends claims that she takes tons of the herb at the first sign of sickness, and doesn’t ever catch colds. I have yet to try this. When we first moved to the Northwest from California, in winter time, Abigail was only a year old, and she was sick quite a bit with runny nose and colds. One of these friends recommended echinacea, so I went and picked up a bottle, a children’s blackberry flavored concoction, but it didn’t seem to help her get well. I confess I didn’t try too hard. I think was too tired and frustrated, wanting some sort of instant cure for her cold

But this week, after suffering this yucky bug, I did buy a bottle of echinacea for me and I’ve been taking it each morning along with C and multivitamin. Next time I begin to feel ill, I’ll have to try out the prevention theory.

I wish I could have sent Ted echinacea last night. He told me he was feeling ill and I wished I could have Star-Trek style transported some herb to him over the phone or internet or something. Today he’s been feeling much worse.

As far as children and echinacea, maybe I should try that again too. This Seattle-based study did not study prevention, and it did notice that children who took echinacea had fewer recurrences. And as the article says, it is more difficult to prevent colds in children since it is more difficult for them to report early symptoms such as sore throat. Ah, the intricacies of immunity!

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