NEW YORK (CBS) It’s that time of year when people start sniffling and coughing. Some people search for natural cold remedies like Echinacea to help, but a study from Consumer Reports warns you might not always get what you expect.
Twenty-one year-old Danny Daniels says during cold and flu season he swears by echinacea. “Helps you with your immunity, so it’s really, it’s really powerful,” Daniels said.
People take it to ease the symptoms and length of a cold. But a new study from Consumer Reports finds not all echinacea supplements are equal.
“We did find that certain products were much more constant then others that they had what was listed on the label,” said CR’s Kevin Loria.
Researchers tested 16 echinacea products and found three had low levels of key ingredients, and several contained levels of lead or bacteria that exceeded Consumer Reports standards. Only six of the 16 met the group’s criteria for purity and potency.
“I think it’s important to talk to your health care provider to see if there’s a reason for you to take the supplements, to see if it might interact with something else that you’re taking,” Loria said.
This is not only a problem with Echinacea. Supplements in general are not approved by the FDA and do not follow the same guidelines prescription drug makers do.
“If you’re going to try and find products that at least contain what’s listed on the label, you can look to see if they’ve been certified. There are organizations like USP and NSF and UL that will verify that supplements that contain what’s listed on the label,” Loria said.
Research on the effectiveness of echinacea has been mixed. Some studies found it can shorten a cold while others saw no benefit at all.
But many people, including Daniels, swear by it and will continue to buy the supplement.