The roots and herbs of three species of Echinacea or coneflower, E. angus-tifolia DC, E. pallida (Nutt.) Nutt. and E. purpurea (L.) Moench. are widely used as immunostimulants. The chemical composition of Echinacea is quite complex and comprises eight groups of compounds: caffeic acid derivatives (echinacoside, cynarin, cichoric acid), flavonoids, essential oil, polyacety-lenes, alkylamides, alkaloids, polysaccharides, and other constituents, including phytosterols (17). Biological activities attributed to Echinacea are stimulation of phagocytosis, increase of respiratory activity, and increase of the mobility of leukocytes (18). Immunostimulatory principles have been demonstrated in both lipophilic and polar fractions of extracts of Echinacea species (13). Preparations containing Echinacea are mostly extracted using water and ethanol. They are not usually standardized (earlier often standardized to echinacoside) but marker substances, cichoric acid in E. purpurea and echinacoside or rutin in E. angustifolia, are determined. Echinacea preparations have widespread use all over the world. They are registered drugs in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Australia; herbal remedies in many European countries; and food supplements in the United States (13,19). The aboveground parts of E. purpurea are the subject of a positive German monograph on their use for the external treatment of hard-to-heal wounds, eczema, burns, herpes simplex, etc.; as a prophylactic internal immunostimulant at the onset of cold and flu symptoms; and as an adjuvant for treatment of chronic respiratory infections, prostatitis, and urinary tract conditions. E. purpurea root, E. angustifolia root, and E. angus-tifolia/E. pallida aerial parts are not recommended because of lack of current clinical studies (13).
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