Media Misinformation About Echinacea - Another Blow to Truth in Reporting

July 28, 2005
Volume 02    |   Issue 30

I expected it. One day after I received a notification from the American Botanical Association (ABC) that there was a flawed study on echinacea, the media is running with a story saying this herb doesn?t help colds. As you?ll see, the report is just as flawed as the study.

ABC is an organization I have come to trust over the years. It dispenses accurate information about herbs to the public and to health care professionals. It?s well respected, and it?s not looking to make headlines. Just to tell the truth.

The media is saying that this federally funded, double-blinded study found that echinacea was useless in preventing or treating colds. This study was funded by a branch of the National Institutes of Health and led by a researcher who has consulted with makers of antibiotics in the past. So why am I saying it wasn?t a good study?

* They used the wrong species. This study used extracts made from the roots of Echinacea angustifolia. Studies on the flowers and roots of E. purpurea show it is effective.

* They didn?t use enough. The college students in this study were given 300 mg of E. angustifolia a day. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that 3 GRAMS (3,000 mg) a day is the proper dosage for this species.

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* The participants were young and probably had strong immune systems. A better study would have included older people with more compromised immunity. After all, if Echinacea boosts immunity, it has a greater effect on people with lowered immunity than those who are not compromised.

This study - and the media?s misinterpretation of its results - is just one more example of why the public is confused. I?ll continue to monitor mainstream media as well as the companies that have products to sell. Scientific research should be well designed. It?s not always. You?ll find additional information on the lack of good studies for some popular nutritional products like Noni and Mangosteen in my monthly newsletter. For subscription information, and access to all past articles, see www.womenshealthletter.com.

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