Use of Echinacea sp. in animal nutrition
Echinacea is a genus of nine species of herbaceous plants in the family Asteraceae which are commonly called purple coneflowers
Echinacea is a genus of nine species of herbaceous plants in the family Asteraceae which are commonly called purple coneflowers. All are endemic to eastern and central North America, where they are found growing in moist to dry prairies and open wooded areas. They have large, showy heads of composite flowers, blooming from early to late summer. The genus name is from the Greek echino, meaning "spiny," due to the spiny central disk. Some species are used in herbal medicines and some are cultivated in gardens for their showy flowers. A few species are of conservation concern.
Most of the extracts are derived from either the aerial or the underground parts of Echinacea purpurea, and from the roots of E. angustifolia or E. pallida. The most relevant pronutrients are caffeic acid derivatives (cichoric acid, echinacoside), echinocid polyphenols, alkamides, polyacetylenes, and glycoproteins/polysaccharides.
IMMUNE BOOSTER ACTIVITY
- It activates the alternative complement pathway by increasing granulocyte and leukocyte counts. It promotes chemotaxis of monocytes, neutralizes viruses and causes bacteriolysis.
- It binds to carbohydrate receptors on the surface of T-lymphocytes and macrophages to produce immunostimulatory effects. They also enhance macrophage phagocytosis and stimulate macrophages to produce increased amounts of tumor necrosis factor, interferon and interleukin 1. It also destroys tumor cells.
- It promotes non-specific T-cell activation, production of interferon and secretion of lymphokines.
USE IN BIRDS
Layers: Echinacea stimulates the immune system, improves the lymphocyte count, the rate of phagocytosis (p <0.02), and the antibody titer after Newcastle vaccination. The intermittent application of E. purpurea in the diet of the layers increases the number of lymphocytes and total leukocytes.
Broilers: Use of Echinacea translates into a higher daily gain of weight, a reduction in mortality and a significant improvement of antibodies in serum, therefore, contributes to a better rate of feed conversion.
USE IN SWINE
Echinacea has been used in sows, piglets and growing/finishing pigs. Preparations based on E. purpurea have been reported to improve swine health, yield and meat quality.
The supplementation of E. purpurea in pig diets improves feed conversion and growth rate, reduces the incidence of diarrhea and also lowers blood cholesterol levels.
In addition, it has been shown that increase the immune response after vaccination, by increasing the lymphocyte count and the phagocytosis rate.
Echinacea is also used as an immuno booster to supplement a healthy immune system of horses. The best way to use Echinacea is to complement the first signs of disease or infection. Administration of Echinacea also increases the number of red blood cells and hemoglobin, showing its effect on the mechanism of oxygen transport.
Toxicity of Echinacea sp. seems to be very low. The results of experiments with different preparations and products of Echinacea sp. in several species of cattle they do not show any negative effect or signs of toxicity. There was no negative effect of supplementation with E. purpurea juice on performance, as well as liver functions in broiler chickens.
Echinacea is one of the few herbs that have been widely researched. Current research on the use of E. purpurea in cattle remains limited, but the available results indicate positive effects in terms of weight gain and meat quality, which are improved in poultry and pigs. Stimulation of the immune system has also been observed in cattle, horses, poultry and pigs.