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Echinacea keeps immune system up & running in times of severe stress

Echinacea keeps immune system up & running in times of severe stress
If you are suffering from serious stress, chances are that your immune system will collapse and you will become ill. Stress is disastrous for your immune system. But maybe not if you use Echinacea supplements, suggests a Korean animal study.

The researchers, who are affiliated with Ewha Womans University, gave 3 groups of lab mice for 2 weeks every day none a small, a medium or a high dose of the Echinacea extract EFLA-894. The Swiss Frutarom makes EFLA-894 from the flowers of Echinacea purpurea. Yet another group mice received no supplements at all.

And before you ask: yes, Frutarom sponsored the research.

Echinacea keeps immune system up & running in times of severe stress

If the mice had been humans, they would have received 80-800 milligrams of Echinacea extract per day. These doses are not extreme. An EFLA-894 tablet contains 250 milligrams of extract.

Three days before the end of the supplementation period ended, the researchers put the mice in a small tube for almost a whole day. For mice this is an extremely stressful situation.

The spleen is a kind of training center for immune cells. Three 3 days after they had put the mice in tubes, the researchers studied immune cells from the spleen, and determined the effect of stress stimulus [IS] on the cell's development process [Splenocyte proliferation index]. They saw that the stimulus had slowed down this process, but higher doses of Echinacea had eliminated this effect.

Echinacea keeps immune system up & running in times of severe stress

The exposure to stress had reduced the activity of Natural Killer and CD8+ cells, but supplementation with Echinacea partially reduced that effect.

Natural Killer cells are part of the innate immune system. Like militant militias or vigilantes, this type of immune cell autonomously attacks everything that is suspect.

"Natural Killer cells [...] kill pathogen-infected cells and tumor cells through direct cytotoxicity and the secretion of cytokines", write the researchers. "Previous studies have shown that the number and cytotoxic function of Natural Killer cells decrease in restraint stress-immunosuppressed mice, leading to increased vulnerability to infections or occurrence of tumors."

"In this study, splenic Natural Killer cytotoxic activity decreased with restraint stress, relative to that in the normal group, whereas Echinacea restored Natural Killer cell activity in restrained mice."

Echinacea keeps immune system up & running in times of severe stress

CD8+ cells are also called Killer T cells. Controlled by, among other things, the CD4 + cells, they attack suspect cells and pump them full of toxic substances. If Natural Killer Cells can be compared with militias, Killer T Cells are elite commando's.

Echinacea keeps immune system up & running in times of severe stress

Stress reduced the activity of both immune cell types, but supplementation with Echinacea largely abolished these effect. The figure below relates to the Killer T cells.

Echinacea keeps immune system up & running in times of severe stress

"Taken together, our study suggests that the pressed-juice powder of Echinacea purpurea flowers enhances immune function in restraint stress-induced immunosuppressed mice", summarize the Koreans.

"It may promote splenocyte proliferation, accelerate Natural Killer cell activity in the spleen, and regulate T lymphocyte subsets and cytokine levels in blood, leading to its beneficial effects."

"These findings further contribute and support to the evidence-based use of Echinacea as an immune-promoting herbal medicine."

J Med Food. 2018 Mar;21(3):261-8.

Echinacea protects air travellers' immunity 18.11.2012
Echinacea and Cat's Claw work better when combined 15.08.2011
Study: Echinacea helps against colds 29.04.2009

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