What the best studies for echinacea and elderberry show

“Fast-acting formula for supporting immune response at onset,” says gaiaherbs.com about its Quick Defense, a supplement made with echinacea and elderberry.


In the largest and best study on echinacea (co-authored by an employee of an echinacea maker), researchers randomly assigned 359 people to take echinacea or a placebo at the first sign of cold symptoms. The echinacea takers took 10,200 milligrams the first day and 5,100 mg a day for the next four days.

Their colds were no shorter, and their symptoms were no milder, than those of the placebo takers.


In the best elderberry study, researchers offered the antiviral drug Tamiflu to 85 adults and children at the first signs of flu symptoms. (Tamiflu and other antiviral flu drugs can shorten the length of a flu by about a day, though most cases only last about a week.)

The researchers randomly assigned the volunteers to swallow either one tablespoon of the elderberry syrup Sambucol or a placebo four times a day for five days. (Children took just one tablespoon twice a day.)

Flu symptoms lasted just as long whether people took Sambucol or the placebo.

The bottom line

Don’t expect much relief from echinacea or elderberry supplements.

Photo: Gaia Herbs.