Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) is an herbal supplement derived from a North American perennial plant (Purple Coneflower) that is primarily used as a non-specific immunostimulant. Evidence from animal and cell culture models support the role for Echinacea as a potential mediator of erythropoiesis; however, these results have not been tested in human subjects.
The purpose of this investigation was to determine whether two weeks of oral Echinacea supplementation induces changes in erythropoietin (EPO), red blood cell count (RBC), hematocrit (HCT) and hemoglobin (Hb) in human subjects.
Twenty-four healthy and recreationally active males age 24.9 ± 4.2 yrs, height 178.9 ± 7.9 cm, weight 87.9 ± 14.6 kg and 19.3 ± 6.5 % body fat were randomly assigned to either an Echinacea (ECH; n=12) or a placebo (PLA; n=12) group. Participants were supplemented with 8 grams/day of ECH or PLA (wheat flour) for 14 consecutive days. Fasting, morning blood samples were collected prior to and after two weeks of supplementation and were analyzed for EPO, RBC, HCT and Hb. A two-way ANOVA was used to determine if significant differences existed following two weeks of supplementation or between groups. Significance was set at P <0.05.
EPO was found to be 44.15 % greater in ECH (Pre: 14.02 ± 1.58 vs. Post: 20.21 ± 1.43 mU/mL, p<0.05) after two weeks as compared to PLA (Pre: 7.08 ± 1.41 vs. Post: 8.70 ± 1.34 mU/mL). There were no significant differences demonstrated in either group for RBC, HCT or Hb.
These data suggest that 8 grams/day of oral Echinacea supplementation administered over the course of 14 days results in significantly increased circulating EPO.
Supported by donations from Forest General Hospital, Hattiesburg, MS, Puritan's Pride, Holbrook, NY and the A.K. and E.G. Lucas Endowment for Faculty Excellence, Office of the Vice President for Research, The University of Southern Mississippi.