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Phytomedicine. 2011 Jul 15;18(10):826-31. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2011.05.011.

Effects of Echinaforce® treatment on ex vivo-stimulated blood cells.

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School of Life Sciences, Merchiston Campus, Napier University, EH10 5DT, Edinburgh, United Kingdom.


The herb Echinacea purpurea, also called purple coneflower, is regarded as an immune modulator. This study examined changes in cytokine production in blood samples from 30 volunteers before and during 8-day oral administration with an ethanolic extract of fresh Echinacea purpurea (Echinaforce(®)). Daily blood samples were ex vivo stimulated by LPS/SEB or Zymosan and analysed for a series of cytokines and haematological and metabolic parameters. Treatment reduced the proinflammatory mediators TNF-α and IL-1β by up to 24% (p<0.05) and increased anti-inflammatory IL-10 levels by 13% (p<0.05) in comparison to baseline. This demonstrated a substantial overall anti-inflammatory effect of Echinaforce(®) for the whole group (n=28). Chemokines MCP-1 and IL-8 were upregulated by 15% in samples from subjects treated with Echinaforce(®) (p<0.05). An analysis of a subgroup of volunteers who showed low pre-treatment levels of the cytokines MCP-1, IL-8, IL-10 or IFN-γ (n=8) showed significant stimulation of these factors upon Echinaforce(®) treatment (30-49% increases; p<0.05), whereas the levels in subjects with higher pre-treatment levels remained unaffected. We chose the term "adapted immune-modulation" to describe this observation. Volunteers who reported high stress levels (n=7) and more than 2 colds per year experienced a significant transient increase in IFN-γ upon Echinaforce(®) treatment (>50%). Subjects with low cortisol levels (n=11) showed significant down-regulation of the acute-phase proteins IL1-β, IL-6, IL-12 and TNF-α by Echinaforce(®) (range, 13-25%), while subjects with higher cortisol levels showed no such down-regulation. This is the first ex vivo study to demonstrate adapted immune-modulation by an Echinacea preparation. While Echinaforce(®) did not affect leukocyte counts, we speculate that the underlying therapeutic mechanism is based on differential multi-level modulation of the responses of the different types of leukocytes. Echinaforce(®) thus regulates the production of chemokines and cytokines according to current immune status, such as responsiveness to exogenous stimuli, susceptibility to viral infection and exposure to stress.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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