By: Leigh Matthews
Scientists have learned a lot about the benefits of echinacea to the immune system since the 1930s, when they started studying the herb in earnest. Indigenous peoples in North America have also been using echinacea in traditional herbal medicine for centuries. These stunning pink echinacea flowers are a common sight in many gardens in Canada and the herb is a medicine cabinet favourite. But just how does echinacea help your immune system?
In short, echinacea supports the immune system by identifying viruses sooner, containing them quicker, and eliminating them faster. The result is reduced symptoms and a quicker recovery from viral infections. Echinacea is one of the most thoroughly researched and most popular herbal supplements.
When faced with harmful pathogens, the immune system responds in two ways: non-specific and specific. The non-specific immune system is the first line of defense for all infections, mounting a general but effective response. The second immune response, specific immunity, relies on antibodies to recognize familiar bugs, which cue targeted responses.
Echinamide is a potent, standardized extract of echinacea. It is the only full spectrum herbal extract containing standardized levels of Echinacea purpurea’s three key active components – alkylamides, cichoric acid, and polysaccharides – in a base of the whole herb, so that no minor active components are missing. [KM1] The alkylamides in Echinamide boost the non-specific immune response by raising the population of white blood cells known as macrophages and by increasing their ability to consume pathogens. Alkylamides also regulate the secretion of interferon, tumour necrosis factor, and interleukin-1, all powerful actors in non-specific immunity. In addition, Echinamide supports the second immune response – specific immunity – by enhancing the tools (antibodies) needed to recognize familiar bugs and cue targeted responses to fight infections.
Two randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies have investigated Echinamide’s benefits for shortening the duration of colds. In the first study, participants were 18–65 years old and had suffered two or more colds in the last year but were otherwise healthy. They took 10 doses of Echinamide or a placebo at the first sign of cold symptoms and four doses each day for the next seven days. They recorded their doses and the severity of their symptoms daily, and a nurse examined then twice during the eight-day period. Participants who took Echinamide reported a 23.1% reduction in severity of symptoms compared to those taking a placebo. The Echinamide group also responded better to treatment.2
In a follow-up study, volunteers received Echinamide or a placebo at the onset of their cold for seven days, with eight doses on day one and three doses per day thereafter. Volunteers kept a record of daily symptoms, and fasting blood samples were taken daily. The group taking Echinamide had a significant reduction in symptoms, and their blood samples revealed the mechanism of action: “a significant and sustained increase in the number of circulating total white blood cells, monocytes, neutrophils, and natural killer cells.”3
Echinacea also has antioxidant activity, which can help neutralize free radicals that cause tissue damage. And by supporting antioxidant defenses, echinacea can help reduce the body’s susceptibility to pathogens and infections.,
So, next time you feel a tickle in your throat or any other early signs of a cold, reach for Echinamide, made from certified echinacea grown at Factors Farms in beautiful British Columbia. It is available as a tincture, capsule, syrup, lozenge, and throat spray. You’ll also find Echinamide in Natural Factors AntiViral, which [ST2] [KM3] features traditional remedies such as reishi, licorice, and lomatium. Echinamide can help every member of the family avoid colds and flu.
 Manayi A, Vazirian M, Saeidnia S. Echinacea purpurea: Pharmacology, phytochemistry and analysis methods. Pharmacogn Rev. 2015; 9(17):63-72.
2 Goel V, Lovlin R, Barton R, et al. Efficacy of a standardized echinacea preparation (Echinilin) for the treatment of the common cold: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2004; 29(1):75-83.
3 Goel V, Lovlin R, Chang C, et al. A proprietary extract from the echinacea plant (Echinacea purpurea) enhances systemic immune response during a common cold. Phytother Res. 2005 Aug; 19(8):689-694.
 Hu C, Kitts DD. Studies on the antioxidant activity of Echinacea root extract. J Agric Food Chem. 2000; 48(5):1466-1472.
 Agnew LL, Guffogg SP, Matthias A, et al. Echinacea intake induces an immune response through altered expression of leucocyte hsp70, increased white cell counts and improved erythrocyte antioxidant defences. Clin Pharm Ther. 2005Aug;30(4): 363-369.