The official (government) word is that Echinacea is not good for speeding up recovery from colds or the flu. Nor has it been shown to prevent them. (National Center for Alternative and Complementary Medicine – NCCAM)
Traditionally, however, it has been used for such purposes. It is commonly believed to boost the immune system. Science has not proven or disproved that as of yet.
Another study, published in Seminars in Integrative Medicine shows that Echinacea may be useful against upper respiratory tract infections.
It is hard to know whether any of these studies are definitive. There doesn’t seem to have be a lot of studies completed on Echinacea and it is possible that future studies could yield different results / conclusions.
New evidence that suggests a different scenario could also one day be uncovered.
I won’t enter into the debate about Echinacea and what it is or might be good for. I generally like to listen to the subjective experiences of people, even though they are not conclusive of anything. Those experiences, however, can provide an astute person with clues to investigate further.
Also keep in mind that no two human bodies are the same.
Similar amounts of quantity and quality of any substance, be it medication or herbal supplements, may not have the same effect on two different people.
This is in part the reason why the practice of medicine is an art and not totally a science.
People who are allergic to ragweed and its cousins may also have an allergic reaction to Echinacea.
Here is a commercial site that has products that contain Echinacea. [AFF]
Suffice it to say that there are many people out there accustomed to using alternative remedies in the form of teas, powders and capsules. They still believe in the power of Echinacea, despite the studies that have been done. They are not so easily convinced of any ‘lack of benefit’ to Echinacea.
Again, Echinacea has been in use for a very long time.
However, you should work with your doctor and inform her if you are taking Echinacea. That way she can make sure that no dangers arise from the effects of prescribed medication that may not have favorable effects on or in the body if Echinacea is also being used.
Always disclose what remedies you have been using to your doctor. This is for your safety.