Daily dose of Echinacea lengthens life expectancy


If you give mice two milligrams of Echinacea purpurea every day from adolescence onwards, the animals reach a greater age, researchers at McGill University in Canada discovered. Especially during middle age, which is when mice and humans usually become more susceptible to cancer, this plant supplement reduces mortality.

Echinacea purpurea

Echinacea is an immunostimulant. Extracts of this plant stimulate the immune cells and give protection, for example against colds. If you’ve already got a cold, the Echinacea helps your immune system to fight the illness more quickly. Animal tests have shown the effect of Echinacea to be so strong that mice with tumours live longer if they are given Echinacea. [J Altern Complement Med. 2001 Jun;7(3):241-51.]

Cancer is more common in middle-aged people, especially those in their forties and fifties. It is around this age that the body starts to become more susceptible to viral infections. This may be because the production of immune cells starts to decline around this age. But it might be because the quality of the immune cells starts to decline. If healthy cells turn into cancerous cells, or are infected by viruses, immune cells try to get rid of them.

This is why the Canadians wanted to know if mice would live longer if they were given a small amount of Echinacea in their food each day from a young age, and thus reduce their risk of developing cancer and virus infections.

The answer is yes. The figure below shows what Echinacea does to the lifespan of the mice.

1

The supplement increases the manufacture of immune cells in the bone marrow of the mice, as shown in the figure below. The effect on the Natural Killer cells [NK] was particularly strong. NK cells are immune cells that don’t learn, and therefore exterminate all cells they regard as vaguely suspicious. NK cells are part of the immune system’s first-line defences.

2

The supplement increases the manufacture of immune cells in the bone marrow of the mice, as shown in the figure below. The effect on the Natural Killer cells [NK] was particularly strong. NK cells are immune cells that don’t learn, and therefore exterminate all cells they regard as vaguely suspicious. NK cells are part of the immune system’s first-line defences.

One theory that the Canadians put forward is that sugar chains in the Echinacea plant, the arabinogalactans, are absorbed by immune cells, which prompts the production of proteins such as interleukin-1, TNF-alpha and interferon-beta2. These proteins activate the NK cells. Another possible mechanism is that the alkylamides – compounds that interact with the CB2 receptor – activate NK cells.

The researchers don’t exclude the possibility that it’s yet another mechanism that’s responsible for the life-lengthening effect of Echinacea. But there’s no doubt in their eyes that Echinacea extends the lifespan of mice.

Enhancement of natural killer cells and increased survival of aging mice fed daily Echinacea root extract from youth

Abstract

In spite of Echinacea-based products being among the best-selling herbs in the world to date, to allay assorted ailments, the debate is still on-going with respect to the efficacy of ingesting the herb intermittently, continuously, or only at the beginning of an affliction. We sought, therefore, to find out if mice, receiving dietary Echinacea daily, throughout life, from youth until late middle-age, demonstrated any longevity/survival differences, and/or any differences in their various populations of immune/ hemopoietic cells. Sustained and/or high levels of these cells are crucial for longevity. Some mice were maintained on a regular chow diet to which was added Echinacea purpurea daily (2 mg/mouse), from puberty (7 week) until just beyond 13 months of age (late middle-age in mice). Control mice, identically housed and maintained, received identical chow without the herb. Mice consuming untreated diet had a 79% survival by 10 months of age, while those consuming Echinacea daily in the diet were still 100% alive by 10 months. At approximately 13 months of age, mice consuming untreated diet had a 46% survival rate while those consuming Echinacea, were 74% alive at this time. Moreover, the key immune cells, acting as the first line of defense against developing neoplasms in mice and humans, i.e., natural killer (NK) cells, were significantly elevated in absolute number both in their bone marrow production site, as well as in the major organ to which they traffic and function, i.e., the spleen. The cells of the myeloid/granulocyte lineages remained steadfastly at control levels in both the bone marrow and spleen in Echinacea-consuming mice. Thus, it appears that regular intake of Echinacea may indeed be beneficial/prophylactic, if only for the reason that it maintains in an elevated state, NK cells, prime elements in immunosurveillance against spontaneous-developing tumors, a phenomenon which increases in frequency with progressive aging.

Source: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10522-005-7951-8

CLOSE
CLOSE