Echinacea purpurea (L.) Moench

Last updated: 6 April 2016

Scientific Name

Echinacea purpurea (L.) Moench


Brauneria purpurea (L.) Britton, Echinacea intermedia Lindl. ex Paxton, Echinacea serotina (Sweet) D.Don ex G.Don f., Echinacea speciosa (Wender.) Paxton, Helichroa purpurea (L.) Raf., Rudbeckia purpurea L. [1]

Vernacular Name

English Eastern purple coneflower, purple coneflower, coneflower [2]
China Zi hua song guo ju, zhi zui ju [3]
Brazil Equineacea,equinocea, f;or de cone [3]
Denmark Have purpursolhat, pupur solhat, solhat [3]
Netherland Kogelbloomsort, purperen rudbeekia, rode zoonehoed [3]
France Echinacee, echinacin, echter sommenhut, kegelblume, purporoter somenhut, roter scheinsomenhut, roter somenhut, rudbeekie somenhut [3]
Poland Jezowka purpotowa, jezowka purpurowa, rudbekia purporawa [3]
Hungary Bibor kasvirag, bibor kipvirag, piras kas virag [3]
Italy Ecgunacea solhatur [3]
Portugal Equinacea purpurea [3]
Rusian Echinacija purporavaja [3].

Geographical Distributions

Echinacea purpurea originated with North American Native Americans. However, there are reports its early use in Europe. It grows in Mid-West to Southern United States. Although this plant can thrive in basic, acidic, or neutral soils, it cannot grow in the shade. E. purpurea needs complete sun. E. purpurea can tolerate drought very well, as well as frost. It is common to see E. purpurea growing in prairies and along roadsides. [4]

Botanical Description

E. purpurea belongs to the Asteraceae family and is found actively growing during the spring and summer months with blooms beginning to appear during the early summer. [4]

The leaves are 15 x 10 cm from the base of the stem. [4]

The flowers is characterized as purple colour and oval shaped . The diameter of capitula are up to 15 cm. [4]

The fruits are black, small and dry. [4]


No documentation

Chemical Constituent

E. purpurea has been reported to contain caffeic acid derivatives (e.g., cichoric acid), alkylamides (e.g. dodeca-2E,4E,8Z,10E/Z-tetraenoic acid isobutylamides), polysaccharides (e.g. acidic arabinogalactan, acidic arabinorhamno-galactans), polyynes (e.g. trideca-1,11-dien-3,5,7,9,-tetraine), sesquiterpenes (e.g. germacrene D), and glycoproteins (arabinogalactan-proteins). [5][6][7][8][9]

Plant Part Used

Root and aerial portions [4]

Traditional Use

E. purpurea is easily recognizable and one of the most popular botanicals used in medicinal preparations worldwide. E. purpurea has been employed as an immunomodulatory agent due to its ability to enhance the body’s natural defenses against pathogens. As a result, E. purpurea is marketed commercially for the treatment of viral infections including, but not limited to, the common cold, influenza, herpes, etc. [4]

Preclinical Data


Upper respiratory infections

Prophylaxis and treatment of upper respiratory infections (URIs) and additional infections of varying etiologies. [10][11][12][13]

Wound healing activity

Prophylaxis of infection and enhanced wound healing by external application to wounds and treatment of inflammatory conditions. [14][15]

Immunostimulatory activity

Ethnomedicine has long employed E. purpurea in the treatment of immune-related illnesses. E. purpurea and its constituents have been shown to possess immunostimulatory activity in laboratory investigations. These investigations have utilized in vitro methods to demonstrate that administration of E. purpurea preparations, and/or its constituents, produces activation of human and murine macrophages, increased T-cell proliferation, enhanced viability of human peripheral blood mononuclear cells, increased macrophage secretion of tumor necrosis factor-alpha and several interleukins including interleukin-1 and interleukin-6, and enhanced cytotoxicity. [5][11][16][17][18][19] These studies illustrate the nonspecific, cell-mediated immune response attributable to administration or consumption of E. purpurea preparations and the potential for increased pathogenic resistance conferred upon its users. The immunostimulatory effects of E. purpurea preparations appear to be dose-dependent, as evidenced by quantitative assays for E. purpurea-induced increases in TNF-α, nitric oxide and human peripheral blood mononuclear cell viability. [19] E. purpurea herb processed through simulated digestion dose-dependently induced secretion of macrophage-derived TNF-α, nitric oxide, interleukin-1α, interleukin-1β and interleukin-6. [19] E. purpurea preparations that failed to stimulate TNF-α production also failed to enhance human peripheral blood mononuclear cell viability. Thereby, it appears that the ability of E. purpurea to alter the activities of the immune system may be due, at least in part, to the modulatory effects E. purpurea exhibits on cytokines. [19]

The in vivo studies in mice demonstrate that consumption of E. purpurea root extract increased the number of natural-killer cells and monocytes within bone marrow and spleen, when compared to control animals; the increases were observed as early as approximately 1 week after commencement of treatment. [3][20] Furthermore, in vivo administration of purified polysaccharides from E. purpurea produced proliferation of phagocytes within bone marrow and spleen of mice whilst also inducing migration of granulocytes to the peripheral blood. [17] These immunostimulatory activities may explain the immunoprotection against systemic infection by Listeria monocytogenes and Candida albicans observed in subsequent experiments. [17] Studies employing cyclophosphamide or cyclosporine A-induced immunosuppressed mice show that treatment with polysaccharides isolated from E. purpurea restores resistance to infection by Listeria monocytogenes and Candida albicans. [5] Extract of E. purpurea and two of its alkylamide constituents have been shown to dose-dependently inhibit interleukin-2 production through suppression of the ability of activated Jurkat T cells to produce interleukin-2; these actions may influence the infection response and amelioration of infectious symptoms attributed to E. purpurea use. [21] Despite cellular evidence of immunostimulation in laboratory studies, the precise pathways by which E. purpurea may confer resistance against infectious diseases remain elusive and it appears that the precise constituents comprising E. purpurea preparations impact the pharmacological effects associated with Echinacea use.

A plethora of research has focused on the constituents of Echinacea to elucidate the mechanisms of action by which Echinacea produces its effects. The alkylamides, detectable in human blood samples in relevant concentrations following oral E. purpurea administration, are structurally similar to anandamide, an endogenous agonist for cannabinoid receptors. [6][22] In vitro, alkylamides have been shown to bind to cannabinoid type 2 (CB2)receptors with high affinity and to subsequently increase total intracellular calcium and activate mitogen-activated kinases, presumably through a g-protein coupled mechanism; the alkylamide-induced increased intracellular calcium is inhibited in the presence of a CB2 antagonist. [6][22] The expression of CB2 receptors is abundant within immune and inflammatory-competent cells; hence, the interactions of constituents of E. purpurea with this receptor population and the subsequent cascades initiated may modulate the inflammatory and immunological effects associated with Echinacea use. [22][23][24]Furthermore, it appears that the alkylamides may influence the inflammatory and immunological effects of E. purpurea through upregulation of the expression of constitutive interleukin-6 in human whole blood and inhibition of lipopolysaccharide-induced secretion of TNF-α and interleukin-1β but in a manner that appears to be independent of the CB2 receptor. [22] Several alkylamides isolated from E. purpurea have been shown to inhibit cyclooxygenase-I and cyclooxygenase-II enzymes in vitro and may modulate inflammation and the perception of pain through these actions. [15] In vivo experiments in rats have shown oral gavage of alkylamides isolated and purified from E. purpurea to increase the phagocytic activity of alveolar macrophages. [25]

Acidic arabinogalactan, another constituent of Echinacea, has been shown to increase the production of immunological mediators (including TNF-α, interferon-β2, and interleukin-1) through its actions on macrophages and to produce a slight increase in T-cell proliferation. [17] Arabinogalactan has exhibited cytotoxicity against tumor cells in laboratory studies and antiparasitic activity against parasites responsible for Leishmaniasis. [17] Glycoproteins isolated and purified from the pressed juice of E. purpurea, the arabinogalactan-proteins, have shown only weak stimulation of interleukin-6 and nitrite production in alveolar mouse macrophage cultures. [9][26] Extracts of E. purpurea have been shown to have phototoxic antimicrobial activity against clinically relevant pathogenic fungi and E. purpurea has shown antioxidant activity in assays assessing the scavenging of hydroxyl radical, 1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl radical and ABTS radical. [8][27] Taken together, the biological activities of E. purpurea, and its constituents, have therapeutic implications in the treatment of infectious disease, inflammatory conditions and tumors.


No documentation

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

Several studies have shownE. purpurea to be effective in the prophylaxis and/or attenuation of illnesses such as the common cold, while several other studies have reported no clinical benefits. [13][28][29][30] Preclinical studies provide support for the immunostimulatory effects associated with Echinacea use; clinical trials assessing E. purpurea preparations in the prophylaxis and treatment of upper respiratory infections have demonstrated favorable differences in the treatment versus control groups. [3][10] The conflicting conclusions of these studies may be attributable to varying factors within the experimental designs, such as the use of different doses and/or preparations of E. purpurea, different animal models employed, and/or differing parameters measured to evaluate outcome in patients. The discrepancy in findings may also be due to failure of E. purpurea products to meet recognized pharmaceutical quality standards. [10] The immunostimulatory activity of E. purpurea preparations has been found to vary significantly by preparation and even raw material obtained from the same supplier varied greatly by lot when examined for immunostimulatory activity. [19] This occurrence may explain why some studies have shown immunostimulatory activity to be specific to E. purpurea herb and root powder preparations (when compared to extracts or fresh pressed juice) whilst others have demonstrated that the extracts display immunostimulatory activity (when compared to whole herb preparations). [19][31]


Patients possessing allergies to members of the Asteraceae family (e.g. sunflower, safflower, ragweed, chamomile and mugwort) should use E. purpurea with caution due to an established cross-reactivity between members within this family.  Allergic reactions have been documented in individuals with sensitivities to other members of the Asteraceae family following use of E. purpurea; following exposure to Echinacea, allergic patients present with symptoms that range in severity from localized symptoms (rhinitis and/or urticaria) to acute asthma attack to generalized, life-threatening anaphylaxis. [10][12][32][33]

If you have kidney disease or an active infection do not use this dietary supplement for more than 10 days. If you have a weakened immune system, talk to your doctor before taking this dietary supplement. [34]

Side effects

No documentation

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

Patients planning to become pregnant, who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use Echinacea supplements without first consulting their medical practitioner due to the lack of information concerning the use of supplements during pregnancy and lactation. [35][36]

Adverse reaction

The parental administration of Echinacea preparations has produced adverse reactions, including but not limited to urticaria, pyrexia and muscle weakness. [33]

Patients suffering from kidney, liver, immunosuppressive or chronic diseases should not begin any medicinal therapy without a consultation with their medical practitioner.

Some individuals experience an allergic reaction when taking this dietary supplement. These reactions include skin rash, asthma attacks and anaphylaxis, a life threatening allergic reaction. [37] Call your doctor or seek medical attention if you have fast or irregular breathing, skin rash, hives or itching.

Interaction & Depletion

Interaction with drug

No documentation

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation


No documentation

Case Report

Echinacea has positive activity on the immune system. A study in mice found that alcohol root extracts from E. purpurea, E. pallida and E. angustifolia were found to enhance phagocytosis significantly. [38] Phagocytosis is the process in which a cell from the immune system response "eats" the foreign cell, such as a virus or bacteria. E. purpurea is also claimed to activate and increase white blood cell activity and cell-mediated immunity. [18][39][40] Cell-mediated immunity provides resistance to a variety of pathogens and guards against the development of arthritis, allergies and other potential disorders. E. purpurea contains arabinogalactan which is reported to increase the activity of other elements of the immune system including interferon, TNF and interleukin-1. [16]

One study evaluating the effectiveness of E. purpurea for the prevention of colds concluded that the preparation of E. purpurea used in the study had no effect on either the occurrence of infection or the severity of illness. Further investigation of the Echinacea product used questioned the presence of any active ingredients in the product. [41] Other studies have shown better results. [42]

Several reports have been conducted over the past few years regarding the effectiveness of E. purpurea preparations in the treatment and management of upper respiratory infections (URI's). In the most recent report, sixteen trials with a total of 3396 participants were included. [43] Overall, the results suggested that certain E. purpurea preparations may be better than placebo in the management and treatment of URI's. Another earlier analysis evaluated 13 trials where E. purpurea was used as a treatment or for the prevention of upper respiratory tract infections (URI's). [44] The authors of this report concluded that E. purpurea may be beneficial for the early treatment of URI's, yet there is very little evidence supporting the prolonged use of E. purpurea for the prevention of URI's. A more recent trial confirmed these findings regarding the treatment of the common cold. Eighty adult patients who were experiencing the first signs of a cold participated in the study evaluating the effect of E. purpurea on the number of days that common cold symptoms were experienced. The group using the Echinacea product experienced 6 days of cold symptoms versus 9 days for the placebo group. [16]

Other studies have demonstrated that E. purpurea is a reported antioxidant. [17] Animal studies have indicated anti-inflammatory properties in the roots of the E. angustifolia plants. Echinacea is reported to have a wide level of antimicrobial activity on bacteria, fungi, and viruses. [18][19]



No documentation

Poisonous Management

No documentation

Line drawing

No documentation


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