Echinacea Shows Little Benefit As Cold Remedy
If you're sniffling and sneezing, forget the echinacea: New research suggests the herbal remedy does not alleviate the common cold, contrary to previous findings. In a clinical trial of more than 700 children and adults, participants were broken into four groups; some were given no pills, some were given a placebo, and two other groups took echinacea tablets for five days. Those who took the herb experienced only negligible relief—slightly milder symptoms and a half-day reduction in the duration of their weeklong cold. But the benefits were so minor, they could have occurred by chance, according to a study published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine. "Any underlying benefit of echinacea is not large and was not demonstrated by our results," the researchers wrote. The herb—a perennial purple coneflower—is marketed as an immune booster that helps fight infections. And it's a top-seller: Last year, sales climbed 7 percent to $132 million in the U.S., Bloomberg reports. But echinacea is also linked to an array of side effects, including stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea. And past research suggests it may interfere with certain medications, including birth control pills and those used to treat allergies and cholesterol.
15 Gift Ideas Under $50 for Fitness Buffs
Whether you're wrapping up some last-minute Christmas shopping for the fitness buff on your list or wondering how you'll tackle your exercise resolutions in 2011, you can't go wrong with one of these budget-friendly fitness buys:
iPod Shuffle, $49 (Apple Store). Hardy and feather-light, the simple 2-gigabyte iPod Shuffle is a gym staple. The built-in clip means no fussing with an armband. Personalize it by having a message engraved when you order online or by uploading a favorite workout playlist, fitness blogger Chelsea Bush writes for U.S. News.
Philips Earhook Headphones, $23 (Amazon). Want relief from standard ear buds? The soft caps of these headphones fit comfortably even in small ears, and flexible over-the-ear hooks keep them in place through sweat and rigorous workouts.
Swiss ball, $32 (Amazon). Everyone should have an inflatable balance ball for improving core stability, according to Seattle-based trainer John Verd. They're versatile, portable, and easy to use, and no one will mind having an extra ball for the office or the road. [Read more: 15 Gift Ideas Under $50 for Fitness Buffs.]
Too Many Kids Don't Have a Doctor
One million American children don't have access to pediatricians and family doctors in their home towns making it difficult for their parents to find them good healthcare.
And that's not because there aren't enough doctors to go around, writes U.S. News contributor Nancy Shute. The nationwide supply of pediatricians increased by 51 percent between 1996 and 2006, and the number of family doctors increased by 35 percent. At the same time, the number of children in the United States rose by just 9 percent.
The problem is that doctors all too often don't live where many children do; in small towns, rural areas, and in lower-income neighborhoods. That's the grim news from a new study in Pediatrics, which compared databases of doctors and children, and came up with these distressing results. The study authors proposed solutions, such as giving doctors financial incentives to practice in underserved areas. But those are long-term goals that won't help desperate parents now. What's more, parents can have an even harder time finding a doctor who takes their health insurance, whether it's private or Medicaid. Or the doctor takes their insurance, but hasn't taken new patients in years. If you're in that kind of pickle, here are six strategies to help you find healthcare for your family. [Read more: Too Many Kids Don't Have a Doctor.]
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