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Molecules. 2005 Oct 30;10(10):1242-51.

Bioavailability of Echinacea constituents: Caco-2 monolayers and pharmacokinetics of the alkylamides and caffeic acid conjugates.

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  • 1MediHerb Research Laboratories, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.


Many studies have been done over the years to assess the effectiveness of Echinacea as an immunomodulator. We have assessed the potential bioavailability of alkyl- amides and caffeic acid conjugates using Caco-2 monolayers and compared it to their actual bioavailability in a Phase I clinical trial. The caffeic acid conjugates permeated poorly through the Caco-2 monolayers. Alkylamides were found to diffuse rapidly through Caco-2 monolayers. Differences in diffusion rates for each alkylamide correlated to structural variations, with saturation and N-terminal methylation contributing to decreases in diffusion rates. Alkylamide diffusion is not affected by the presence of other constituents and the results for a synthetic alkylamide were in line with those for alkylamides found in an ethanolic Echinacea preparation. We examined plasma from healthy volunteers for 12 hours after ingestion of Echinacea tablets manufactured from an ethanolic liquid extract. Caffeic acid conjugates could not be identified in any plasma sample at any time after tablet ingestion. Alkylamides were detected in plasma 20 minutes after tablet ingestion and for each alkylamide, pharmacokinetic profiles were devised. The data are consistent with the dosing regimen of one tablet three times daily and supports their usage as the primary markers for quality Echinacea preparations.

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