Study Shows Echinacea Extract Boosts Immune System in Adults

Jenn Hoskins
15th May, 2024

Study Shows Echinacea Extract Boosts Immune System in Adults

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • A clinical trial in Korea found that Echinacea purpurea extract (EPE) significantly boosts immune function
  • EPE consumption increased Natural Killer (NK) cell activity and levels of immune-boosting cytokines IL-2, IFN-γ, and TNF-α
  • No significant changes were observed in upper respiratory symptoms or fatigue levels, and EPE was found to be safe with no adverse effects
Echinacea purpurea (EP), a medicinal plant native to North America and now cultivated in various regions including Europe, has garnered increasing popularity in Korea. To evaluate the immune-enhancing efficacy and safety of EP 60% ethanolic extract (EPE) in Koreans, a human clinical trial was conducted by NUON Co., Ltd.[1]. This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial involved 80 volunteers who were randomly divided into two groups to receive either a daily dose of 200 mg of EPE or a placebo. The study aimed to assess changes in Natural Killer (NK) cell cytotoxic activity, serum cytokine levels, Wisconsin Upper Respiratory Symptom Survey-21 (WURSS-21), and Multidimensional Fatigue Scale (MFS) scores over an 8-week period. NK cells play a crucial role in the body's immune response by targeting and destroying virus-infected cells and tumors. Cytokines are signaling molecules that aid in immune responses, with specific types like IL-2, IFN-γ, and TNF-α playing key roles in promoting immune activity. After 8 weeks of EPE consumption, the study observed a significant increase in NK cell cytotoxic activity compared to the placebo group. Additionally, serum cytokine levels of IL-2, IFN-γ, and TNF-α also showed significant increases following EPE consumption. These findings suggest that EPE enhances immune function by boosting both cellular and molecular components of the immune system. Interestingly, no significant changes were observed in WURSS-21 and MFS scores before and after EPE consumption. The WURSS-21 is a validated tool used to measure the severity of upper respiratory symptoms and their impact on daily life, while the MFS assesses levels of fatigue. The lack of significant changes in these scores indicates that while EPE may boost immune parameters, it does not necessarily translate to a noticeable improvement in perceived symptoms or fatigue levels within the study period. Throughout the 8-week study period, no adverse reactions were reported in relation to EPE consumption. Additionally, there were no clinically significant changes in diagnostic laboratory tests or vital signs in the EPE group, indicating that EPE is safe for consumption. This clinical trial is the first to demonstrate the beneficial effects of EPE consumption on immunity in Korean adults. It builds on previous research suggesting that Echinacea can decrease the duration and severity of acute respiratory tract infections[2]. The current study expands on these findings by providing evidence that EPE not only reduces symptoms but also enhances immune function by increasing NK cell activity and cytokine levels. Chicoric acid, the main phenolic active ingredient in Echinacea purpurea, is known for its immune-enhancing properties[3]. The current study's findings align with earlier research that has highlighted the importance of this compound in boosting immune responses. The method used to extract and purify chicoric acid from Echinacea purpurea has been shown to be efficient and effective, further supporting the potential for EPE in medicinal applications[3]. The study also utilized the Wisconsin Upper Respiratory Symptom Survey-21 (WURSS-21) to assess changes in respiratory symptoms, although no significant changes were observed. The WURSS-21 is a shorter, more responsive version of the WURSS-44, which has been validated for its reliability and responsiveness in measuring upper respiratory symptoms[4]. The use of WURSS-21 in this study underscores its utility in clinical trials involving respiratory symptoms. In conclusion, the findings from this clinical trial indicate that Echinacea purpurea 60% ethanolic extract (EPE) can enhance immune function without adverse effects, supporting its potential use as an immune-boosting supplement. Further research could explore the long-term effects of EPE and its impact on different populations, as well as its potential role in preventing or managing conditions similar to COVID-19.



Main Study

1) A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study on immune improvement effects of ethanolic extract of Echinacea purpurea (L.) Moench in Korean adults.

Published 14th May, 2024

Related Studies

2) The effect of Echinacea spp. on the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 and other respiratory tract infections in humans: A rapid review.

3) Highly selective separation and purification of chicoric acid from Echinacea purpurea by quality control methods in macroporous adsorption resin column chromatography.

4) The Wisconsin Upper Respiratory Symptom Survey is responsive, reliable, and valid.

Journal: Journal of clinical epidemiology, Issue: Vol 58, Issue 6, Jun 2005

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