Google News has been culling stories all afternoon about the study published today on the effectiveness of Echinacea. The study, as reported in The New England Journal of Medicine, all but confirms what most rationally thinking people have known since Echinacea was first introduced in suppository form and given to Native Americans as a practical joke: The only effect of the drug is that it makes your wallet lighter.
Now would be a good time to confess I have, in my medicine cabinet, a bottle of Echinacea, right next to the bottle of St. John's Wort for those times when I'm feeling suggestively depressed, and these strange little pills I bought from a street vendor in New York who promised me they would increase my liver function by like 2400%.
Before you label me a hypocrite, which you appropriately should do, I'd like to say that I'm a firm believer in psychosomatic medicine. The cited study just compared the healing response of people who received Echinacea to those who received a placebo. But what about comparing these two groups to a group that received nothing at all ? Do you think that both groups who received something would have fared better than a group that received nothing at all ?
I suspect this would have been the case.
Believing in the healing powers of something goes a long way in helping the body do what it's perfectly capable of doing on it's own. If you think you're taking the necessary steps toward healing, and maintain a positive attitude about it, you're much more likely to become well than if you don't.
"But Scott," you say, "you already doubt the effectiveness of Echinacea, so how can taking it be beneficial to you ?"
Glad you asked. Because medical science is just a bunch of speculation, informed guesses, and late night pillow fights with supermodels. These are the people who told us butter was good for us, then bad, and then good again. So you never know. I'm holding out for the possibility that Echinacea actually has the power to heal my sniffles, and possibly also somehow cure cancer and prevent Anna Nicole Smith from ever getting near a camera again.