Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Echinacea Study

Once again the news media has been filled with reports of yet another complementary therapy failing to meet scientific standards. This time it was the popular herbal remedy echinacea. However as usual it helps to get the whole story, especially in an age when 80% of the most common type of medical research is later refuted. (See earlier blog.)

If you make it to the last few paragraphs of the story you discover the study was limited to one county in Wisconsin. It relied on the cold sufferers to report on their own condition instead of a standardized measurement. Since there was a much wider range of cold severity and duration than expected the trial may have been insufficient to account for the full range of information.

In the words of the researchers: "The [confidence intervals] of between-group differences allow for the possibility of a 24-hour reduction in duration and a 20% reduction in overall severity attributable to echinacea, both of which might be accepted as clinically significant by many persons with the common cold," they stated.

So who says there isn't any benefit?

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