In vitro studies have allowed the discovery of Echinacea's action mechanism: its polysaccharides and polyacetylenes fractions stimulate the phagocytosis of macrophages and the production of cytokines like interleukine-1, interleukine-6 (also called interferon beta), interleukine-10 and TNF alpha factor. This effect shows Echinacea's ability to stimulate the immune system in cases of infection.(1)
Chicoric acid and analogues derived from caffeic acid are presently under investigation for their effect on HIV-1 replication.(2)
Echinacea, particularly the echinacosides and caffeic acid derivatives, might protect collagen structures against degradation (oxidation) caused by free radicals. This antioxidant effect is also useful to relieve the inflammation generated by the immune system during its fight against the viruses of colds.