Taking echinacea could slash the chances of catching a cold by more than half, according to US scientists.
Their findings, published in the July edition of The Lancet Infectious Diseases, also says that the herbal remedy could reduce the duration of colds by an average of 1.4 days.
The scientists examined 14 previous studies into the use of echinacea to combat and prevent colds.
They found that echinacea reduced cold incidence by 65 per cent but this dropped to 35 per cent if patients were directly injected with the cold-causing rhinovirus.
The scientists, from the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy, said: ‘With over 200 viruses capable of causing the common cold, echinacea could have modest effect against rhinovirus but marked effects against other viruses.’
Echinacea is a collection of nine related plant species and there are more than 800 products containing echinacea on the market.
The scientists said that more work needs to be done on both the safety of herbal remedy and on how it combats colds before echinacea could be used as a standard treatment.
However, they added: ‘An analysis of the current evidence in the literature suggests that echinacea has a benefit in decreasing the incidence and duration of the common cold.’