MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It’s that time of year when people are sniffling and coughing. Some people search for natural cold remedies like echinacea to help, but a new study warns you might not always get what you expect.

People take echinacea 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,” said Kevin Loria, senior reporter at Consumer Reports.

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.

Some of the echinacea products Consumer Reports tested. (CBS)

“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.

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

Research on the effectiveness of echinacea has been mixed. Some studies found it can shorten a cold while others saw no benefit at all.

Consumer Reports said supplement sales are expected to hit $52 billion in 2020.

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