Objective: To study the effect of Echinacea tablets on the expression of leucocyte heat shock protein 70 (hsp70), erythrocyte haemolysis, plasma antioxidant status, serum chemistry, haematological values and plasma alkylamide concentrations.
Method: Eleven healthy individuals (26-61 years of age) were evaluated at baseline (day 1) and on day 15 after consuming two commercially blended Echinacea tablets daily for 14 days.
Results: Echinacea supplementation enhanced the fold increase in leucocyte hsp70 expression after a mild heat shock (P=0.029). White cell counts (WCC) were also increased (P=0.043). We also observed a preventative effect against free radical induced erythrocyte haemolysis (P=0.006) indicative of an antioxidant effect.
Conclusion: The pilot study suggests that Echinacea may invoke an immune response through altered expression of hsp70 and increased WCC.