Echinacea, commonly known as the purple coneflower, is a perennial plant native to the midwestern parts of North America. Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea Angustifolia are the two sub-species that are most often used therapeutically. Some of the most potent immune-stimulating compounds found in Echinacea are called polysaccharides. They are found both in the root and aerial portions with the highest concentration in the root portion of the plant.
However, polysaccharides are very easily destroyed by the high alcohol concentrations found in many of the echinacea products presently on the market. Even alcohol-free products (in a glycerine base) are usually first pre-extracted with alcohol or some other organic solvent (e.g. hexane) which destroys the polysaccharides leaving little or none of the original polysaccharides in the product. The reason that many manufacturers use alcohol as an extractant is that there are also some other immune-stimulating compounds that are not water-soluble and hence would not normally be extracted out.
The scientists at Omega Alpha Pharmaceuticals solved this dilemma (the need to extract the water-soluble compounds as well as the alcohol-soluble compounds) by using a patented low alcohol and water extraction process. This maximizes not only the polysaccharide content of our extracts but also the content of the alcohol-soluble components.
Omega Alpha Echinacea is a 1:1 Extract (100 g per 100 ml) of Echinacea in a 100 ml base of 15% ethanol and 85% distilled water. Although more care is needed for proper extraction, the lower than normal alcohol content preserves both the water-soluble polysaccharide and the alcohol-soluble fractions. Using 15% alcohol during extraction allows most of the polysaccharide fraction to remain intact and active. Both fractions are important for the stimulation of the immune system. Beware of high alcohol content formulations which destroy the polysaccharide fraction.