Echinacea Coneflowers

MAPPING THE DISTRIBUTION, DIVERSITY, AND BIOACTIVITY OF ALKYLAMIDES AND PHENOLICS AMONG ASTERACEAE

The Asteraceae are North America’s largest plant family with numerous ecologically and economically important species.  Meta-analysis of ethnobotanical data revealed that two of the most highly-used medicinal plants – Echinacea and Yarrow – share similar phytochemistry in the form of phenolics and alkylamides. While phenolics are widespread and alkylamides are more restricted among plants, both classes possess diverse bioactivities and their roles in plant defense and physiology remain poorly understood.
Our team has mapped the level and distribution of phenolics and alkylamides in Echinacea and Yarrow across plant parts and tissues, throughout the growing season, and between different genotypes and organic farming practices. Testing chemically defined extracts in different ethnobotanically relevant experimental models (e.g. inflammation, infection), we observed common organ- and developmental patterns in chemistry and bioactivity. Collectively, these results serve as a model for comparison to other Asteraceae and a basis for generating/testing hypotheses about the role of these phytochemicals in the plant.
As we continue to study the immnumodulatory and antibiotic activity of Echinacea and Yarrow, we are now expanding to poorly studied Asteraceae taxa with similar phylogeny and/or ethnopharmacology.