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Planta Med. 2006 Dec;72(15):1372-7. Epub 2006 Oct 20.

Liver enzyme-mediated oxidation of Echinacea purpurea alkylamides: production of novel metabolites and changes in immunomodulatory activity.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, The University of North Carolina Greensboro, Greensboro, NC 27402, USA.


The medicinal plant Echinacea is widely used to treat upper respiratory infections and is reported to stimulate the human immune system. A major constituent class of Echinacea, the alkylamides, has immunomodulatory effects. Recent studies show that alkylamides are oxidized by cytochrome P450 enzymes, but the immunomodulatory activity of these products is unknown. The objectives of this study were to characterize the products formed by incubation of an Echinacea extract and an isolated alkylamide with human liver microsomes, and to evaluate the influence of Echinacea alkylamides and metabolites on cytokine production by Jurkat human T cells. A novel class of carboxylic acid alkylamide metabolites was identified and shown to be the major constituents present after 2-h incubation of alkylamides with human liver microsomes. Echinacea alkylamides suppressed IL-2 secretion by stimulated T cells, and this effect was significantly lessened upon oxidation of the alkylamides to carboxylic acids and hydroxylated metabolites. These findings highlight the importance of considering the influence of liver enzyme metabolism when evaluating the immunomodulatory effects of alkylamides.

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