As part of its continuing series of monographs on standards of analysis, quality control, and therapeutics on leading herbs, in July the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP) released its latest monograph on “Echinacea purpurea Root: Echinacea purpurea (L.) Moench.”
The extensive 52-page monograph is the most comprehensive and up-to-date publication of this popular medicinal plant part. The most compelling aspect of this monograph is that it pertains only to E. purpurea root. Although it contains some chemical data on the aerial portions of this plant, it does not include standards of therapeutic data for the aerial portion or its fresh-pressed juice (commonly found in echinacea preparations in the U.S. and Germany, respectively), nor does it include E. angustifolia or E. pallida roots—all of which are present in various commercial herbal products. According to AHP Founder and Executive Director Roy Upton, additional monographs for the roots of Echinacea angustifolia and E. pallida as well as E. purpurea aerial parts are currently in process.
As with other AHP monographs, this one includes the following sections: Nomenclature, History, Identification, Commercial Sourcing and Handling, Constituents, Analytical, Therapeutics, Safety Profile, International Status, and References. There are numerous subheadings in some of these sections, particularly in Commercial Sources and Handling, Therapeutics, and Safety Profile.
The beautiful classic four-color painting of Echinacea purpurea by W. Curtis in 1787 graces the inside back cover and the first page. There are also color photos of live echinacea, dried root material, photos of microscopic structures, plus color photos of high performance thin-layer chromatographic (HPTLC) plates. There are also numerous line drawings of the plant and its microscopic structure, chemical structures, and high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) graphs of various materials subjected to the analytical methods approved by AHP.
The monograph contains five tables. Table 1 shows the historical timeline of the use of E. purpurea root. Table 2 contains a comparison of the aerial parts of four species of Echinacea plus the formerly common adulterant, Parthenium integrifolium —a particularly useful tool in quality control measures. Table 3 lists macro- and microscopic diagnostic characteristics of the root portions of commercial Echinacea species (E. purpurea, E. angustifolia, and E. pallida ) as distinguished from P. integrifolium . Table 4 lists the phytochemical differentiation between the roots of commercial Echinacea species (very useful from both qualitative and therapeutic perspectives). Table 5 provides a summary of 13 randomized, blinded clinical trials.
According to Upton, “On the quality side of things, there are numerous issues surrounding Echinacea that make manufacturing, choosing, or researching a quality product very complicated; confusion between species, the presence of adulterants, instability of potentially active compounds, and analytical difficulties create a great challenge for anyone working with Echinacea . Regarding efficacy and safety issues, there are controversies regarding proper dosing, which species or type of product to use, its short-term or long-term use, safety in pregnancy or auto-immune disease, etc. All of these issues are addressed and clarified in the monograph.”
This international collaborative effort was authored by the numerous scientists and herbalists with particular expertise in the genus Echinacea : David Winston (history); Shannon Binns, PhD (botanical identification); Prof. Reinhard Langer (macroscopic and microscopic identification); Alison Graf and Roy Upton (commercial sources and handling); John Thor Arnason, PhD and Shannon Binns, PhD (constituents); Anne Blatter, PhD, Eike Reich, PhD, Dean Gray, PhD, and George Rottinghaus, PhD (analytical substantiating laboratories); Josef Brinckmann (quantitative standards and international status); Bruce Barrett, MD, PhD (therapeutics and safety profile); and Eric Yarnell and Roy Upton (medical evidence supported by traditional or modern experience). In addition, the monographs were reviewed by a committee comprising 28 botanical experts from the United States, Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, and Switzerland, including Professor Hildebert Wagner and Professor Rudolf Bauer, two of the world’s leading researchers on Echinacea .
Additionally, the release of this monograph is accompanied by the release of several AHP-Verified™ chemical reference standards that can be used for the analysis of Echinacea. These chemical reference standards include caftaric, cichoric, chlorogenic, and caffeic acids, as well as echinacoside and cynarin. Also included are two 4-hexadecanoic acid isobutylamide and AHP-Verified botanical reference standards for the roots of E. angustifolia, E. pallida , and E. purpurea , and E. purpurea herb. AHP-Verified Standards are independently verified for authenticity and purity. AHP-Verified Chemical Reference Standards are available through Chromadex (firstname.lastname@example.org); AHP-Verified Botanical Reference Standards are available directly from AHP (www.herbal-ahp.org).
This monograph, like all 18 previous AHP monographs, is required for the libraries and quality control laboratories of all companies in the business of selling products with the respective botanical ingredients, whether the products are dietary supplements, over-the-counter drugs, or cosmetics. The Echinacea purpurea Root monograph is available for $24.95 from ABC (www.herbalgram.org) or directly from AHP (www.herbal-ahp.org).