Preparations of Echinacea are widely used as alternative remedies to prevent the common cold and infections in the upper respiratory tract. After extraction, fractionation, and isolation, the antioxidant activity of three extracts, one alkamide fraction, four polysaccharide-containing fractions, and three caffeic acid derivatives from Echinacea purpurea root was evaluated by measuring their inhibition of in vitro Cu(II)-catalyzed oxidation of human low-density lipoprotein (LDL). The antioxidant activities of the isolated caffeic acid derivatives were compared to those of echinacoside, caffeic acid, and rosmarinic acid for reference. The order of antioxidant activity of the tested substances was cichoric acid > echinacoside > or = derivative II > or = caffeic acid > or = rosmarinic acid > derivative I. Among the extracts the 80% aqueous ethanolic extract exhibited a 10 times longer lag phase prolongation (LPP) than the 50% ethanolic extract, which in turn exhibited a longer LPP than the water extract. Following ion-exchange chromatography of the water extract, the majority of its antioxidant activity was found in the latest eluted fraction (H2O-acidic 3). The antioxidant activity of the tested Echinacea extracts, fractions, and isolated compounds was dose dependent. Synergistic antioxidant effects of Echinacea constituents were found when cichoric acid (major caffeic acid derivative in E. purpurea) or echinacoside (major caffeic acid derivative in Echinacea pallida and Echinacea angustifolia) were combined with a natural mixture of alkamides and/or a water extract containing the high molecular weight compounds. This contributes to the hypothesis that the physiologically beneficial effects of Echinacea are exerted by the multitude of constituents present in the preparations.