Supercure or snake oil - what's the truth about echinacea?

At the first sign of flu or a cold, many people reach for echinacea. For years this humble purple flower has been the remedy of choice for those seeking an alternative to over-the-counter drugs.
Herbalists routinely recommend it as an immune booster, and even the World Health Organisation acknowledges it as a treatment for the common cold.
So popular is echinacea that UK sales are now worth around £30 million a year. During last winter's cold season, Boots reportedly sold 7,000 packets of echinacea a week - or one packet a minute. Many doctors, however, are extremely sceptical about its benefits. And the confusing message from research has only confirmed their view. For while some studies suggest echinacea could reduce the risk of catching colds, others show that, at best, it has no effect and, at worst, actually makes you more ill.

Indeed, in 2002 a study of 150 students found that those given echinacea suffered from cold symptoms for half a day found that those given echinacea suffered from cold symptoms for half a day longer than those not given it.
Now, adding to the confusion is the report yesterday in the highlyrespected medical journal The Lancet which suggested that echinacea cuts the chance of catching a cold by half.

Source - Daily Mail