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In the largest ever study into the herbal remedy, researchers found that taking three daily doses of echinacea for four months not only reduced the chances of catching the virus but shortened the duration of a cold in those who did suffer by an average of 26 per cent.
In tests of 750 people, taking the remedy also slashed the number of colds caught by those with already weak immune systems by 60 per cent each year.
Though previous studies have suggested that echinacea was effective at soothing the symptoms of a cold, this latest research is the first to show that it reduces the risk of catching the virus.
Part-funded by A. Vogel, the Swiss manufacturers of Echinaforce, the study aimed to test the safety of the product but the results revealed a "borderline significant" change in the number of bouts suffered, and a "highly significant" change in the duration of the cold.
Roland Schoop, one of the study's authors, told the Daily Telegraph: "We were actually pretty amazed when we found this 26 per cent difference in cold episodes."
And Dr Margaret Richie, a researcher at the University of London who was not involved in the study, added: "The clinical trial indicates that echinacea supports low-running immune systems but does not overstimulate well-supported ones."
However, parents be warned - the British drugs regulator, the MHRA, advises that echinacea should not be given to children under the age of 12 due to the risk of "severe" allergic reactions.
Have you tried echinacea? Do you think it helped to protect you against the cold virus? Leave your comments below...