Herbal cure for common cold?

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Immune system

Scientists in Germany, Austria and Canada are claiming that their
combined work may have led to a natural "cure for the common cold".

Calgary-based Factors R & D Technologies in collaboration with researchers at the universities of Alberta, British Columbia and Dalhousie in Nova Scotia, as well as the Heinrich-Hein University in Düsseldorf, Germany and the Karl-Franzens University in Graz, Austria have pooled their knowledge and resources to produce Echinilin​ - an Echinacea extract phytopharmaceutical.

In contrast to over-the-counter cold and flu treatments, the product is supposed to be a preventative treatment, which does not mask or suppress symptoms.

"When clinical trial participants were given Echinilin, we saw an immediate and sustained increase in natural killer cells which target virus infected cells and destroys them,"​ said Dr. Richard Barton, co-director of the human clinical studies. "This indicates that their immune system had been stimulated to target and destroy the viruses. The end result was an immediate and marked reduction in both severity of symptoms and duration of the infection."

Factors R & D Technologies claim they spent eight years in research and development at a cost of over $5-million dollars to produce this product.

Many researchers are still undecided about the ability of the herbal Echinacea to reduce symptoms of the common cold and help patients recover faster.

A study published in June in the Archives of Internal Medicine (164:1237-1241), for example, showed that the herbal remedy had no effect on severity of symptoms and the time taken to recover from a cold compared to those given placebo.

The findings were based on a trial of 120 adults, who took 300 milligrams of an echinacea juice preparation daily at the first sign of a cold and supported the results of a study in children last year.

This trial, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that echinacea did not reduce the severity or duration of infections although it did appear to cut the number of respiratory tract infections in the children.

Echinacea is thought to stimulate the immune response and is widely sold as a cold remedy. However it is available in different forms, made from both the above-ground herb and/or root portions depending upon the species used. The product tested in both the new and JAMA study used the fresh-pressed juice of the above-ground part of the Echinacea plant.

The researchers from the US-based Marshfield Clinic concluded that "further studies using different preparations and dosages of E purpurea are necessary to validate previous claims."

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