Study shows you might not be getting what you pay for when it comes to echinacea

Investigators

NEW YORK (CBS NEWS) — 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.

Danny Daniels, 21, says during cold and flu season he swears by echinacea.

“It helps you with your immunity so it’s really, it’s really powerful,” said Daniels.

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 than others that they had what was listed on the label,” Consumer Report’s Kevin Loria told CBS news.

Researchers tested 16 echinacea products and found three had low levels of key ingredients.

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,” said Loria.

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,’’ said Loria. “You can look to see if they’ve been certified.”

“There are organizations like USP, NSF and UL that will verify that supplements that contain what’s listed on the label,” said Loria.

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 wear by it and say they’ll continue to buy the supplement.

The supplement industry generates huge profits.

According to Consumer Reports, supplement sales are expected to hit $52 billion this year.

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