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J Ethnopharmacol. 2006 Jul 19;106(3):360-3. Epub 2006 Feb 28.

Immunostimulant properties of Heracleum maximum Bartr.

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  • 1Division of Infectious Diseases, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alta., Canada T6G 2R7.


The root of Heracleum maximum Bartr. (Umbelliferae), known to possess direct antifungal and anti-mycobacterial properties, has been reported anecdotally to possess antiviral properties. It was therefore hypothesized that the plant may have immunostimulant properties. This hypothesis was tested using a macrophage activation assay to evaluate the ability of aqueous extracts of the root of Heracleum maximum to stimulate IL-6 production. All Heracleum maximum extracts were found to stimulate IL-6 and produced a steep dose-response curve. With the assay performed twice in the absence of the macrophage primer, IFN-gamma, the mean IL-6 production in the setting of the strongest extract was 3648pg/ml (95% CI 3361-3935) and 5430pg/ml (95% CI 4976-5885) as compared to 2722pg/ml (95% CI 2620-2824) and 6772pg/ml (95% CI 6282-7262) produced by the LPS positive control, respectively. In the presence of IFN-gamma, the strongest extract produced a mean concentration of IL-6 of 21804pg/ml (95% CI 19755-23854) surpassing the 14893pg/ml (13159-16628) produced by the LPS+IFN-gamma positive control. These positive results confirm the hypothesis of immunostimulation and thus support the anecdotal reports of antiviral activity.

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