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Dr Patricia Mottram: Herbal extracts that boost innate immunity. A review of the evidence for Andrographis and Echinacea
Extracts of Andrographis (Andrographis paniculata) are used in Ayurvedic medicine and Echinacea extracts (E. augustifolia and E. purpurea) were used by Native North Americans (Mills and Bone 2000). Although some clinical studies have shown that these plant extracts can boost immunity (Sheeja and Kuttan 2007), (Linde et al. 2009), until recently their mechanism of action was unknown. Evidence from in vitro and animal studies has now shown that these herbs act on innate immune mechanisms. Both Andrographis extract and andrographolide significantly improved natural killer cell activity and antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) in mice, with elevated production of cytokines compared with controls (Sheeja and Kuttan 2007). Mice fed Echinacea extracts (130 mg/kg) for 7 days showed increased NK cell cytotoxicity and IFN-γ production, but inhibition of TNF-α and IL-1β. Thus, Echinacea is a wide-spectrum immunomodulator that acts on both innate and adaptive immune responses ( Zhai et al. 2007 ). These studies show that the herbal extracts can activate cells of the innate immune system, including macrophages (Echinacea) and NK cells (Andrographis and Echinacea). Cytokines of the innate system that can activate the adaptive system were elevated. These herbal extracts may therefore facilitate clearance of pathogens by the innate immune system.
Dr Gerald Muench: Broad anti-inflammatory action of the polyphenols apigenin and resveratrol
Background: Microglia are immune effector cells contributing to neuronal cell death in many neurodegenerative diseases. Following pro-inflammatory activation, microglia and macrophages produce neurotoxic molecules such a nitric oxide and cytotoxic cytokines such as IL-1 and TNF-α. Aim: To investigate the anti-inflammatory properties of apigenin and resveratrol Methods: RAW 264.7 macrophages, C4B8 microglial cells and primary murine microglia (PMB) cells were pre-treated with apigenin or resveratrol for 2 hours followed by anactivation with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) combined with interferon-γ (IFN-γ) for up to 48 hours. Levels of cytokines were measured using a cytokine array. Results: Interestingly, macrophages showed a significant down-regulation of the proinflammatory cytokines IL-1α, IL-6, IL-12(p70), GM-CSF and TNF-α after apigenin and resveratrol treatment (Table 1).
Conclusion: A potent suppressive effect of apigenin on pro-inflammatory responses of microglia and macrophages was identified. Our data suggests a therapeutic potential for these compounds in diseases accompanied by microglial activation.