07/13/2011 01:05 pm ET Updated Sep 12, 2011

The Placebo Effect Could 'Cure' The Common Cold

Just thinking that a cold medicine works could be enough to make you feel better faster, a new study reveals.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison study included 719 people ages 12 to 80 who were beginning to feel symptoms of a cold. They were assigned to one of four groups: knowingly taking the cold remedy Echinacea, unknowingly taking Echinacea, unknowingly taking a placebo and not taking anything.

Researchers found no big differences in duration or severity of the colds among all four groups. (The colds lasted about week, on average.)

However, when researchers looked at the people who reported back that Echinacea was effective, they found that people who were given a placebo recovered 2.58 days faster than people who didn't take anything, according to the study.

However, people who took Echinacea recovered 1.5 days faster than people who didn't take anything, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The results aren't completely surprising -- past studies have shown that patients' conditions seem to improve when they take placebos, The Florida Times-Union reported.

"The placebo effect may be one of the most powerful, uncertain entities in medicine. When you look at any study that's done, with few exceptions, there's always some placebo response," Dr. Adam Dimitrov, a family practice physician in Florida, told the Times-Union.

There's no known cure for the common cold, but there are a number of cold remedies that do seem to speed up the recovery process. Water and fluids can help loosen congestion and prevent you from becoming dehydrated, saline drops help stop congestion and gargling with salt water can help relieve sore throat from a cold, according to the Mayo Clinic.