Echinacea purpurea-derived alkylamides exhibit potent anti-inflammatory effects and alleviate clinical symptoms of atopic eczema


      • Echinacea purpurea (Ec.) extract exerts strong anti-inflammatory actions.
      • Clinical administration of the Ec. extract-based cream is safe.
      • Ec. extract alleviates skin symptoms in atopic eczema (AE) patients.
      • Ec. extract improves epidermal lipid barrier of AE patients.



      Atopic eczema (AE) is a chronic inflammatory and pruritic skin disease. There is still an unmet need for topical anti-inflammatory and anti-pruritic substances exhibiting an excellent safety profile. The endocannabinoid system is known to regulate various aspects of cutaneous barrier and immune functions, thus targeting it may be a valid approach for alleviating the symptoms of AE.


      To assess the putative efficacy of Echinacea purpurea-derived alkylamides (Ec. extract) activating cannabinoid (CB)-2 receptors in exerting anti-inflammatory effects and alleviating symptoms of AE.


      In vitro anti-inflammatory efficiency was investigated by monitoring the effects of Ec. extract on poly-(I:C)-induced pro-inflammatory cytokine expression (Q-PCR) and release (ELISA) of HaCaT keratinocytes. Irritancy and sensitization potential (assessed by Human Repeat Insult Patch Test; Clinical trial 1); clinical efficiency in alleviating symptoms of AE (Clinical trial 2) as well as effects on human skin structure and lipid content (Clinical trial 3 followed by transmission electron microscopy and HPTLC) were investigated in randomized double blind clinical trials.


      Ec. extract significantly reduced mRNA expression as well as release of poly-(I:C)-induced pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-6 and IL-8) in keratinocytes. Thus, not surprisingly, the well-tolerated (Clinical trial 1) Ec. extract-based cream reduced local SCORAD statistically significantly, not only compared to baseline, but also compared to the comparator (Clinical trial 2). Of great importance, besides the in vitro anti-inflammatory effects, administration of the Ec. extract-based cream also resulted in significantly higher levels of overall epidermal lipids, ceramide EOS (ω-esterified fatty acid + sphingosine sphingoid base), and cholesterol at Day 15 compared to baseline as well as significantly greater numbers of intercellular lipid lamellae in the intercellular space (Clinical trial 3).


      The investigated Ec. extract shows great potential in alleviating cutaneous symptoms of AE, and by exerting remarkable anti-inflammatory actions and restoring the epidermal lipid barrier, it will be very likely a well-tolerated, powerful novel ingredient for the adjuvant therapy of AE.


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