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Echinacea Strengthens Important Immune System Cells
By Greg Arnold, DC, CSCS, September 12, 2011, abstracted from “Echinacea intake induces an immune response through altered expression of leucocyte hsp70, increased white cell counts and improved erythrocyte antioxidant defences” in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics
Echinacea is an herb widely used in the early 20th century to fight infections. While its use declined in popularity with the invention of antibiotics in the middle of the 20th century, the prevalence of antibiotic resistance has caused a renewed interest in how Echinacea can help with immune system strength (1).
One of the infections Echinacea is purported to help fight is the viral infection that causes the common cold, currently costing our healthcare system $40 billion per year (2). A Cochrane review suggests Echinacea may help decrease both the duration and severity of the common cold in adults but not help with prevention (3). Now a study (4) has uncovered a way Echinacea may help maintain immune system strength.
In the study, 5 male and 6 female patients between the ages of 26 and 61 and body mass indexes between 18 and 30 kg/m2 were given either 1275 mg of Echinacea per day (675 mg of E. purpurea root extract and 600 mg of E. angustifolia root extract) or placebo for 14 days. Before and after the study, the patients provided blood samples that were used to measure the expression of an immune system protein called hsp70. This protein is found in all organisms and is used to help maintain healthy levels of inflammation, fight viral and bacterial infection, as well as oxidative stress and toxins (5).
The researchers found that 14 days of Echinacea supplementation increased activity of the hsp70 protein by 33% compared to placebo. There was also an 8% decrease in red blood cell damage in the Echinacea group, showing an ability of Echinacea to help fight oxidative stress.
For the researchers, “supplementation with Echinacea may induce an immune response through altered expression of hsp70. There is also some support for the protective effects of Echinacea against free radical induced damage to [red blood cells].”
Greg Arnold is a Chiropractic Physician practicing in Danville, CA.  You can contact Dr. Arnold directly by emailing him at PitchingDoc@msn.com or visiting his web site at www.PitchingDoc.com
1.       “Echinacea” - http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/981.html
2.       Fendrick AM. The economic burden of non-influenza-related viral respiratory tract infection in the United States. Arch Intern Med. 2003 Feb 24;163(4):487-94
3.       “Echinacea for treating and preventing the common cold” - http://www2.cochrane.org/reviews/en/ab000530.html
4.       Agnew LL. Echinacea intake induces an immune response through altered expression of leucocyte hsp70, increased white cell counts and improved erythrocyte antioxidant defences. Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics (2005) 30, 363–369
5.       Watson K (1990) Microbial stress proteins. Advances in Microbial Physiology, 31, 183–223.