The flu, or influenza, is not something to be taken lightly. To date, the viral infection is surprisingly still one of the leading causes of death, claiming the lives of thousands each year.
So what should you do if you develop flu symptoms? This is a legitimate concern, given the risks. According to a recent study, echinacea, an herb often used to treat symptoms of the common cold, may also help to fight symptoms of the flu. The results were published in the journal, Current Therapeutic Research.
Tamiflu and Echinacea Were Similarly Effective in Fighting the Flu
The flu is characterized by fever, chills, a sore throat, and body aches. Tamiflu, the first line of conventional treatment for influenza, has its limitations. In order to be effective, it needs to be administered within the first 48 hours of becoming ill.
During the recent study, the effect of echinacea was compared to Tamiflu. A group of 473 participants was randomized to take Tamiflu for five days followed by five days of a placebo, or to ingest a beverage containing echinacea for ten days. All patients were in the early stages of the flu, their symptoms having begun less than 48 hours earlier.
Each participant filled out a diary to document their symptoms. Researchers screened for cough, nasal congestion, sore throat, headache, body aches, fatigue, and fever.
According to the results of the study, both treatments were similarly effective in helping participants recuperate from the flu.1
After five days, 50.2% of participants taking echinacea reported an alleviation of symptoms, compared to 48.4% of the participants using Tamiflu. After ten days the results were 90.1% for the echinacea group versus 84.8% for the participants taking Tamiflu. In addition, fewer complications and side effects were reported in the echinacea group.
Overall, the echinacea was well-tolerated. This was one of the largest clinical trials examining the effects of echinacea. However, more research is needed to confirm its effectiveness against the flu.
Supplement with Echinacea to Fight the Flu
Echinacea has been used traditionally in the United States for hundreds of years. It lost popularity after the introduction of antibiotics in the 1900’s. Echinacea can be taken during the cold and flu season preventively.
For optimal results, it is suggested that echinacea be taken cyclically (for example, two weeks on and one week off). Look for preparations that contain echinacosides. These are the active ingredients shown to have beneficial effects. A potent dose ranges between 250 to 500 mg.
- Available at: http://www.currenttherapeuticres.com/article/S0011-393X(15)00005-3/abstract. Accessed August 6, 2015.