Vanguard Faculty Meetings

All Vanguard Faculty meetings are held in the Helfgott building classroom at 2220 SW 1st Avenue, unless posted otherwise.

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Unraveling Anti-Inflammatory and Pro-Inflammatory Activity of Echinacea purpurea Botanical Extracts
Nadja B. Cech, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
University of North Carolina Greensboro

Echinacea is among the most widely used herbal medicines in the US and Europe.  Preparations from this plant are prescribed for the treatment or prevention of upper respiratory tract infections, and Echinacea dietary supplement sales total more than $100 million annually in the US.  Nonetheless, the efficacy of Echinacea has been a topic of great controversy in the scientific community, and several recent high-profile clinical trials on Echinacea preparations yielded negative results.  As is the case with any botanical medicine, design of effective clinical trials with Echinacea has been hampered by its complexity and by disagreement as to which species and method of preparation yields the greatest efficacy.  Additionally, there has been lack of consensus in the scientific literature as to the mode of action of Echinacea.  Some studies have suggested that this botanical may function to stimulate the immune response, thereby preventing infection, while others have suggested it to serve as an anti-inflammatory agent, suppressing the symptoms of infection.  To further complicate matters, recent findings have strongly implicated the role of bacterial components (rather than components of the botanical itself) in the in vitro immunostimulatory activity of Echinacea preparations.  This presentation will focus on research by the Cech laboratory aimed at identifying specific anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory components of Echinacea preparations.  Echinacea purpurea, the species of this botanical most widely cultivated in the US, serves at the focus of these studies.  In agreement with previous literature, our findings indicate that alkylamides from Echinacea possess anti-inflammatory activity in vitro.  However, other compounds from complex E. purpurea extracts also appear to contribute to this activity.  Additionally, complex Echinacea preparations, even those prepared in ethanol, contain bacterial lipopolysaccharides (LPS) that strongly stimulate macrophage activity in vitro and can mask the anti-inflammatory effects of alkylamides.  Our studies show conclusively that these lipopolysaccharides can come from endophytic bacteria; bacterial living asymptomatically within plant tissues.

Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM) Short Course

2014 Course Dates and Times: August 25-29, 2014
Location: Helfgott Research Institute classroom

The EBM Short Course is offered to Vanguard Faculty members annually as part of NCNM's R25 research education grant. Course attendees should download the following materials for use during the course. We recommend reading the research articles in parts 3, 4, 5 and 6 prior to the day they are covered in class.

2013 Course Materials (2014 materials will be posted in August)

Part 1 - Introduction and Background

Part 2 - Clinical Questions - Finding Resources

Part 3 - Critical Appraisal: Therapy

Part 4 - Critical Appraisal: Observational Studies

Part 5 - Critical Appraisal: Systematic Reviews, Meta Analyses

Part 6 - Critical Appraisal: Diagnosis

Part 7 - Case Reports

Part 8 - Practicing and Teaching EBM