Plant microbiome-dependent immune enhancing action of Echinacea purpurea is enhanced by soil organic matter content

Sci Rep. 2019 Jan 15;9(1):136. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-36907-x.


We previously demonstrated that extracts from Echinacea purpurea material varied substantially in their ability to activate macrophages in vitro and that this variation was due to differences in their content of bacterial components. The purpose of the current study was to identify soil conditions (organic matter, nitrogen, and moisture content) that alter the macrophage activation potential of E. purpurea and determine whether these changes in activity correspond to shifts in the plant-associated microbiome. Increased levels of soil organic matter significantly enhanced macrophage activation exhibited by the root extracts of E. purpurea (p < 0.0001). A change in soil organic matter content from 5.6% to 67.4% led to a 4.2-fold increase in the macrophage activation potential of extracts from E. purpurea. Bacterial communities also differed significantly between root materials cultivated in soils with different levels of organic matter (p < 0.001). These results indicate that the level of soil organic matter is an agricultural factor that can alter the bacterial microbiome, and thereby the activity, of E. purpurea roots. Since ingestion of bacterial preparation (e.g., probiotics) is reported to impact human health, it is likely that the medicinal value of Echinacea is influenced by cultivation conditions that alter its associated bacterial community.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Echinacea / microbiology*
  • Macrophage Activation / immunology*
  • Microbiota / immunology*
  • Plant Extracts / immunology
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use
  • Plant Roots / immunology
  • Plant Roots / microbiology
  • Soil / chemistry*
  • Soil Microbiology


  • Plant Extracts
  • Soil