Echinacea 'does not treat colds'

The herbal remedy echinacea is not effective in treating children's colds, researchers have found.

A study compared the treatment with a dummy pill and found no difference in how long the children were ill for.

Over 500 children were studied by doctors at the University of Washington in Seattle.

But herbalists said the study contradicted other research which showed that echinacea was "powerful and effective".

The study looked at upper respiratory tract infections in children.

Most children have between six and eight such infections each year, each of which lasts around a week.

Children may be given drugs such as decongestants, antihistamines, or cough suppressants, but there is little evidence that these are effective in those under 12.

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Garlic 'beats hospital superbug'

The ingredient which gives garlic its distinctive smell is the latest weapon in the battle to beat the hospital "superbug" MRSA.

University of East London researchers found allicin treated even the most antibiotic-resistant strains of the infection.

MRSA (Methecillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) causes an estimated 2,000 deaths in UK hospitals each year.

Researchers are now testing allicin products in a six-month study.
Dr Ron Cutler and his team discovered the effectiveness of allicin in laboratory tests five years ago.
They found it can cure MRSA within weeks.

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Garlic could provide cancer drug

The chemical which gives garlic its flavour could be used in a "smart bomb" to fight cancer, scientists say.

The finding comes just days after it was revealed the same chemical, allicin, could treat the hospital superbug MRSA.

The cancer treatment harnesses the natural chemical reaction in which allicin is produced.
The journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics details how the reaction can be triggered at tumour sites.

Allicin is a toxic, but unstable, chemical which breaks down quickly and harmlessly when it is eaten.

It is not present in unbroken cloves of garlic, but is produced as a biochemical reaction between two substances stored apart in tiny, adjoining compartments within each clove - the enzyme, alliinase, and a normally inert chemical called alliin.

If the clove is broken, as it is in cooking, the membranes separating the compartments are broken and allicin is produced.

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Steroids in herbal eczema creams

So-called "natural" creams for eczema have been found to contain the steroid drugs customers were trying to avoid.

Researchers from Sheffield tested 24 herbal creams bought from herbalists, clinics and by mail order, and found the majority had traces of the drugs.

Long-term use of steroids for eczema can cause permanent damage.

The results, reported in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, have led to renewed calls for tighter regulation of herbal medicines.

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Vitamins 'help treat depression'

Vitamin B supplements may help people to fight depression, research suggests.

Scientists found that people with depression responded better to treatment if they had high levels of vitamin B12 in their blood.

They suggest taking vitamin B supplements may be a way to boost the effectiveness of anti-depressants.

The research, by Kuopio University in Finland, is published in the journal BMC Psychiatry.

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Vitamin may cure smoking disease

A form of vitamin A could one day provide the basis for a cure for the smoking disease emphysema.

British researchers have found that retinoic acid, a derivative of vitamin A, can cure the disease in mice.

Writing in the European Respiratory Journal, they said it reverses damage done to tiny air sacs in the lungs.

There is currently no cure for emphysema. The disease causes progressive damage to the lungs and can eventually kill.

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Flower oil 'no good for eczema'

A popular alternative eczema treatment called "starflower oil" has little impact on the condition, say doctors.

Patients given the extract fared no better than those trying a placebo drug, experiments found.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal, is also bad news for those using Evening Primrose Oil to tackle eczema.

It shares the same ingredient as starflower oil, though in different concentrations.
"Starflower oil" is actually an extract of borage, a herb which grows in the UK.

It has been suggested that it could have an anti-inflammatory effect which could ease the symptoms of eczema.

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