A new animal study,1 published in the Journal of Medical Food, provides further evidence supporting echinacea’s immune-health benefits. In the in vivo study, Echishield, an Echinacea purpurea ingredient from Frutarom (Herzliya, Israel), formerly branded Echinacea EFLA 894, helped protect against stress-induced changes in immunological function in mice.
The echinacea plant is known for its anti-inflammatory and immuno-enhancing properties, and has thus become a popular herbal ingredient for boosting immune function. While echinacea has long been associated with immune health, in this study, researchers sought to determine whether Echishield, an ingredient obtained from the dried pressed juice of Echinacea purpurea, could exert these immune-health benefits in a restraint-stress mouse model.
Researchers divided 70 mice into five treatment groups: one control group without restraint or Echishield; a restraint stress–induced immunosuppression group given a saline vehicle treatment; and three restraint stress–induced Echishield groups given Echishield at three different dosages (10 mg/kg, 30 mg/kg, and 100 mg/kg). The researchers then induced immunosuppressive conditions in all of the mice except for those in the control group. The mice in the treatment groups were supplemented with either Echishield or the saline treatment once per day for a period of two weeks.
Researchers analyzed the mice’s spleen cell proliferation and splenic natural killer (NK) cell activity, a key immune function that helps fight infections, using a spleen cell proliferation assay and a lactate-dehydrogenase cytotoxicity detection kit, respectively. The study authors write that the spleen is responsible for the differentiation and maturation of lymphocytes and the induction of cellular and humoral immunity.
Using immunoassays, the researchers assessed mice’s serum cytokine concentrations. They performed blood T-cell immunophenotyping (a technique used to study the protein expressed by cells) via flow cytometry. Finally, the researchers examined mRNA expression from the mice’s spleens using real-time quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction.
At the end of the two-week study period, the researchers found Echishield restored mice’s stress-induced immune-health changes to levels similar to those of healthy, non-stressed animals. Specifically, Echishield normalized splenocyte proliferation and NK cell activity. Echishield also helped modulate mice’s blood T-cell distribution, and normalized blood serum levels and mRNA expressions of cytokines IL-6, IL-10, and IL-17, which the authors say are responsible for inflammation and autoimmune diseases.
“This study indicates that this sustainable, pure ingredient is beneficial for the immune system,” said Maider Gutierrez, Frutarom’s director of marketing, in a press statement.
In the press statement, Frutarom pointed to data from market researcher Innova Market Insights which shows that echinacea use in food, beverage, and supplements is on the rise. Per Innova data, products launched with echinacea grew 8% annually between 2013-2017. Of those products, Innova says, 56% were dietary supplements, 29% were hot beverages, and 8% were soft drinks. Hot beverages are seeing the fastest growth of fastest-growing category for echinacea ingredients, Innova adds. Hot beverages formulated with echinacea saw an annual growth rate of 23% from 2013-2017.
Added Gutierrez of Echishield: “Frutarom provides this water-soluble formula as an ingredient for supplements, although it is safe and suitable for beverages where allowed.”
Frutarom highlighted its Echishield ingredient, as well as the results from this new study, at Vitafoods Europe 2018, held this year from May 15-17 in Geneva, Switzerland.
- Seonyoung P et al., “Echinacea purpurea protects against restraint stress-induced immunosuppression in BALB/c mice,” Journal of Medical Food. Published online March 1, 2018.