Improvement Of Echinacea Quality

Recent studies by Livesy et al. (2000) and Bauer (1997) show that Echinacea markers are unstable in juice, during harvesting and drying, and in storage. However, losses can be minimized by rapid drying during harvest, protection from oxidation in storage, and use of cooler storage temperatures.

Improvement in phytochemical marker consistency and amount can be achieved in a number of ways. For example, phytochemical constituents are well known to be influenced by soil nutrients, and we have recently found (Table 2.3) that the alkamides are inducible by the plant hormone methyl jasmonate (Binns et al., 2001). In collaboration with Trout Lake Farm LLC, we found that flowering stage is also an


Alkamides useful in species identification

E. purpurea E. angustifolia E. pallida

2,4 diene isobuylamides


Mono-ene isobutylamides


Ketoalkene and Ketoalkyne



Alkamides and ketoalkene/ynes in E. pallida roots (58 days) that showed a statistically significant increase by methyl jasmonate treatment

Compound induced % increase P



0.01 6

dodeca-2E,4E,8Z,10E/Z-tetraenoic AIBA



trideca-2E,7Z-dien-10,12-diynoic AIBA



undeca-2E,4Z-dien-8,10-diynoic AIBA



undeca-2Z,4E-dien-8,10-diynoic AIBA






Note: Significantly different means were determined at P=0.05 by a two-tailed t-test.

Note: Significantly different means were determined at P=0.05 by a two-tailed t-test.

important determinant of cichoric acid concentration in aboveground harvest (Letchamo et al., 1999). Cichoric acid is most concentrated in immature (preanthe-sis) flowers of E. purpurea and declines after anthesis. Alkamide content of flowers has an opposite trend (Figure 2.3). Genetics is another important component. Even in germplasm that has been in cultivation for many years, there is still considerable phytochemical variation between individual plants. Cloned plants derived by division of the roots of individual plants in cultivated populations are very uniform and are one method for selecting and producing high-performance cultivars from exceptional plants. Development of tissue culture methods, currently under investigation in our laboratory, is expected to allow much faster and large-scale production of uniform elite plants.

Figure 2.3 Changes in isobutylamides with flower stage. Stages 1and 2 are preanthesis and stages 3 and 4 are postanthesis.

Wild populations of Echinacea provide further scope for genetic improvement. Our greenhouse investigations of E. angustifolia populations grown from seed collected at nine locations on the Great Plains showed a latitudinal variation in the amounts of several phytochemical markers (Binns unpublished). Echinacoside, for example, increases significantly with latitude, while several alkamides decrease as latitude increases.

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