Spicing up” of the immune system by curcumin

“Spicing up” of the immune system by curcumin”.

Jagetia GC, Aggarwal BB.

Cytokine Research Laboratory, Department of Experimental Therapeutics, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


Curcumin (diferuloylmethane) is an orange-yellow component of turmeric (Curcuma longa), a spice often found in curry powder. Traditionally known for its an antiinflammatory effects, curcumin has been shown in the last two decades to be a potent immunomodulatory agent that can modulate the activation of T cells, B cells, macrophages, neutrophils, natural killer cells, and dendritic cells. Curcumin can also downregulate the expression of various proinflammatory cytokines including TNF, IL-1, IL-2, IL-6, IL-8, IL-12, and chemokines, most likely through inactivation of the transcription factor NF-kappaB. Interestingly, however, curcumin at low doses can also enhance antibody responses. This suggests that curcumin’s reported beneficial effects in arthritis, allergy, asthma, atherosclerosis, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and cancer might be due in part to its ability to modulate the immune system. Together, these findings warrant further consideration of curcumin as a therapy for immune disorders.

Immunomodulatory activity of curcumin: suppression of lymphocyte proliferation, development of cell-mediated cytotoxicity, and cytokine production in vitro

Immunomodulatory activity of curcumin: suppression of lymphocyte proliferation, development of cell-mediated cytotoxicity, and cytokine production in vitro.

Gao X, Kuo J, Jiang H, Deeb D, Liu Y, Divine G, Chapman RA, Dulchavsky SA, Gautam SC.

Division of Surgical Research, Department of Surgery, Henry Ford Health System, One Ford Place-4D, Detroit, MI 48202, USA.


Curcumin (diferuloylmethane), a major curcumanoid found in the spice turmeric, exhibits anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and chemopreventive activities. However, the effect of curcumin on the development of T cell-mediated immunological responses largely remains unknown. In this study we have investigated the effect of curcumin on mitogen/antigen induced proliferation of splenic lymphocytes, induction of cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs), lymphokine activated killer (LAK) cells, and the production of cytokines by T lymphocytes and macrophages. We found that mitogen, interleukin-2 (IL-2) or alloantigen induced proliferation of splenic lymphocytes, and development of cytotoxic T lymphocytes is significantly suppressed at 12.5-30 micromol/L curcumin. The generation of LAK cells at similar concentrations was less sensitive to the suppressive effect of curcumin compared to the generation of antigen specific CTLs. Curcumin irreversibly impaired the production of these immune functions, since lymphoid cells failed to respond to the activation signals following 8h pretreatment with curcumin. Curcumin also inhibited the expression/production of IL-2 and interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) by splenic T lymphocytes and IL-12 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) by peritoneal macrophages irreversibly. Curcumin inhibited the activation of the transcription factor nuclear factor kappaB (NF-kappaB) without affecting the levels of constitutively expressed NF-kappaB. The latter result suggests that curcumin most likely inhibits cell proliferation, cell-mediated cytotoxicity (CMC), and cytokine production by inhibiting NF-kappaB target genes involved in induction of these immune responses.