The new study, published in the March issue of theArchives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine158:217-221, investigated a preparation called Chizukit, made by an Israeli firm, containing equal amounts of echinacea and the honey ingredient propolis, and 10mg of vitamin C on 430 children aged one to five-years-old.
Those that took the remedy for 12 weeks had less than half the number of colds than the placebo group. Overall, 89 per cent of children in the placebo group had at least one upper-respiratory infection during the study, compared with 53 per cent in the herbal group.
The total number of illness days and duration of individual episodes were also significantly lower in the Chizukit group, said the researchers.
The findings offer some support for the benefits of echinacea. There has been considerable debate on whether preparations of the botanical do in fact steel the immune system and prevent colds and flu. Although lab and animal studies have shown it to affect immune cell activity, clinical trials on its ability to treat or prevent colds have yielded conflicting results.
Last year researchers reported that echinacea, when taken at the first sign of a cold, did not shorten the duration of illness or make symptoms less severe. However it did reduce the number of respiratory tract infections in children over the four-month period.