Hi v-rap,
just wondered what your thoughts are on taking echinacea as a prevention to the dreaded winter bugs.

Is this wise or should we allow the bugs to 'run their course'? The reason I ask this is that when training for the FLM this year I took echinacea for about 6-7 weeks to try and prevent colds etc. I didn't get a cold throughout my training but after London I had an awful virus of some kind and wonder if this was or could have been because I suppressed all bugs while training. I am a little ignorant about such things so your thoughts on this would be appreciated.


  • This was covered in Peak Performance sometime ago - if you're interested the web site address is


  • I did read somewhere that you should not take echinacea for prolonged periods - it is only really effective in short bursts.
    If I can remember where I read it I will post it.
    I ran last winter, and I did not get colds either - but I did not take echinacea. Perhaps a healthy lifestyle had more to do with you not getting a cold?
  • Hi Hilly

    Everything I have read from reputable scientific sources suggests that echinacea is completely ineffective, unfortunately. As are other traditional cold preventers, notably high doses of vitamin C and zinc.

    The best way to avoid catching colds is to stay away from places where you might encounter cold viruses (crowded places, especially those where children congregate, are the worst), and wash your hands a lot since the viruses are transmitted just as effectively by hand contact as by having someone sneeze in your face. It might be worth having a flu jab too. This won't prevent colds, but will protect you against the three most serious strains of flu expected this winter. As a fit runner you're unlikely to get a flu jab free on the NHS, but Boots and other places offer them privately each autumn.

    Even more importantly, make sure your immune system is in top form. This isn't achieved by taking things that come in bottles. It means commonsense healthy living - plenty of good food, exercise (but not overtraining), dealing with unfinished business promptly instead of letting it hang over you, and being prepared to rest if you do start coming down with a bug.

    I don't take echinacea or any other supplements, I probably encounter more snotty noses that most people, and I had no viral illnesses between June 2001 and June 2002 - and those I do have tend to be trivial things. So Robokidney and I are an anecdotal study of two.

    Hope that helps!

    Cheers, V-rap.
  • ps. Forgot to add, Hilly - marathon running is immune system Armageddon and about one in four runners will come down with a cold or flu bug in the few weeks after running a marathon.So you were in good company and it certainly wasn't the result of anything you did or didn't do before London.
  • Like V-rap says, there's no official scientific evidence on Echinacea. I'm averse to all wonderpills but I have to admit that at the first hint of a snuffle I take Echinacea. Snuffle then disappears 99 per cent of the time. I can't attribute this to the Echinacea, but the one occasion I didn't have any to hand, snuffle turned into heavy cold. Purely anecdotal, of course, but it works for me. On the other hand, I've never been particularly prone to colds.

    Incidentally, I think we need a dedicated Velociraptor forum. How about it, RW?
  • I seem to remember Desmond Morris (The Naked Ape)has a theory that humans catch colds due to a subconcious need to be petted and pampered. His argument is along the lines that chimps do not suffer from colds because they deal with stress by grooming each other, and that humans do not have this social outlet so subconciously lower their resistance to colds when they are suffering from stress.

    Don't know if there is anything in this theory but it seems to make some sort of sense.

    I have been taking Wellman tablets which contain Siberian Ginseng for about 18 months now and have only had one or two minor snuffles in that time. Mind you one of these was a week before the FLM and I hit the vit C's and Echinacea and it cleared just in time.

    Medicine or Placebo, who knows, but so long as there is no health risk, I guess I'll keep taking them.

  • I'd take grooming session over alternative rememdies any day, although I guess this is an alternative rememdy in itself. I once tried an echinacea tincture, and it gave me a horrible headache. Tried once more to be certain, and it happened again. Now, I just feel like hell for a week, and let the cold run its course.
  • Great, will probably have a cold for the GNR then(that'll be my excuse for the slow time anyway)
  • Thanks everyone for your input.

    SS I'll read that article out of interest.

    v-rap why are the makers of these supplements allowed to say that they work on colds etc without scientific evidence?

    Working with children I'm constantly in contact with snotty noses and yukky germs, but have to admit that I don't seem to get many myself. I guess as you say down to healthy-ish lifestyle. I took the echinacea this year because I was paranoid about getting ill before London.

    The only things I take on a regular basis are glucosamine and chondroitin for long term back problem, evening primrose oil and vit B6 recommended by GP for woman problems and a multi vit.

  • Hilly, do please read the site - I think you'll be surprised. Here's an extract from it....

    To identify its physiological properties, we have to go to the scientific literature, which is actually pretty extensive when it comes to the herb. A quick search on Medline reveals a plethora of Echinacea articles, about 400 of which have been published since 1930.

    These studies can be grouped into three categories - those exploring the effects of Echinacea on cells grown in cultures, those looking at how Echinacea influences the immune systems of experimental animals, and - finally - Echinacea work carried out with real-live human beings. Somewhat surprisingly, all three avenues of research provide evidence that Echinacea can have a positive impact on the immune system

    The rest of the article explains.

    In our office - open plan - there were only two people who didn't come down with a cold last winter - and I found out this summer that the other one took Echinacae as well. Yes I did come down after the FLM - but then I'd stopped it then and sort of expected to...
  • Hi EP

    No. Be your own doctor. You'd only be advised to go off and lose weight and take some exercise anyway, and you know about that without sitting in a waiting room for an hour.

    If your father has a home blood glucose testing monitor, it might be worth getting him to do a fingerprick blood glucose on you (it should be less than 7 after an overnight fast and less than 10 at any other time) just out of interest.

    Get signed up for a half, and if you start to develop worrying symptoms during your training programme you should certainly see your doctor. But most people can safely train without any prior medical checks.

    The "consult a physician before undertaking any kind of training programme" isn't the daftest advice I've come across. When epilators were the trendy way to remove leg hair, I had a girl come to see me because she was getting ingrowing hairs, and the instruction manual with her epilator said that if you got ingrowing hairs you should consult your doctor. She showed me the manual - it did! Unfortunately, it didn't tell me what I was supposed to do about them. I suppose the homoeopath would have been able to cure her.
  • Hilly, supplements are allowed to make all sorts of woolly claims (I think echinacea's pet one is that it "strengthens the immune system" - whatever the heck that means) because those claims are unmeasurable and unproveable. If it really did "strengthen the immune system", we'd be giving it out on the NHS to treat AIDS and prevent infections in patients on treatment for cancer. Those, plus the companies who manufacture them (usually aesthetically-named branches of multinational conglomerates rather than sweet old ladies growing herbs in their cottage gardens and bottling them at their kitchen tables) paying whopping honoraria to health writers to "place" features singing the praises of the latest flavour-of-the-month supplement in the likes of the Daily Mail, sets off Chinese whispers, and soon people are saying things like, "well, I took echinacea for a month and I didn't get a cold" (ignoring the fact that most adults only get 2 or 3 colds a year), pseudoscientific websites are funded and created, and by the time people have become bored with this particular consumer lifestyle product the industry has moved on. Remember tea-tree oil? Aloe vera? Feng shui? Garlic? All very fashionable cure-alls within living memory. I believe Co-enzyme Q10 is where it's at now.

    Disclaimer here - most conventional medicine is just as cynically marketed. But at least it has jumped through the hoop of proving that it has the potential to work some of the time by a plausible biological mechanism.
  • You can't, EP. Remember that the main qualification for my job is the ability to spout authoritative bullsh*t.
Sign In or Register to comment.