Immunological and haematinic consequences of feeding a standardised Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia) extract to healthy horses

Equine Vet J. 2002 May;34(3):222-7. doi: 10.2746/042516402776186001.


This study was undertaken to compile new data on the efficacy of Echinacea in stimulating the immune system of the horse. Use of Echinacea is becoming widespread in horses, despite an absence of controlled laboratory research into its effectiveness or safety. This paper documents results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial investigating the effect of standardised Echinacea extract on 8 horses. Animals were supplemented with Echinacea or placebo for 42 days, and their response to supplements recorded. Treatment with Echinacea increased phagocytic ability of isolated neutrophils, boosted peripheral lymphocyte counts and appeared to stimulate neutrophil migration from peripheral circulation into the tissues. Echinacea supplement also increased the size and concentration of peripheral red blood cells, and the concentration of haemoglobin and packed cell volume. It was concluded that Echinacea effectively stimulates equine immunocompetence, and the plant extract behaves, in equine subjects, as a haematinic agent, i.e. one which improves the quality of blood by increasing haemoglobin levels and the number of erythrocytes and which, by virtue of their effects on oxygen transport cells, are considered to improve parameters of exercise physiology and performance.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Cell Size / drug effects
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Echinacea / immunology*
  • Erythrocyte Count / veterinary
  • Erythrocytes / drug effects
  • Female
  • Hematinics / pharmacology
  • Hemoglobins / drug effects
  • Horses / blood*
  • Horses / immunology*
  • Immune System / drug effects*
  • Lymphocyte Count / veterinary
  • Male
  • Phagocytosis / drug effects
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Plant Extracts / standards
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Hematinics
  • Hemoglobins
  • Plant Extracts