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Planta Med. 2009 Mar;75(4):312-5. doi: 10.1055/s-0028-1088367. Epub 2008 Nov 25.

Inhibition of human dendritic cell activation by hydroethanolic but not lipophilic extracts of turmeric (Curcuma longa).

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  • 1Laboratory of Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy, The Rockefeller University, New York, New York, USA.


Turmeric has been extensively utilized in Indian and Chinese medicine for its immune-modulatory properties. Dendritic cells (DCs) are antigen-presenting cells specialized to initiate and regulate immunity. The ability of DCs to initiate immunity is linked to their activation status. The effects of turmeric on human DCs have not been studied. Here we show that hydroethanolic (HEE) but not lipophilic "supercritical" extraction (SCE) of turmeric inhibits the activation of human DCs in response to inflammatory cytokines. Treatment of DCs with HEE also inhibits the ability of DCs to stimulate the mixed lymphocyte reaction (MLR). Importantly, the lipophilic fraction does not synergize with the hydroethanolic fraction for the ability of inhibiting DC maturation. Rather, culturing of DCs with the combination of HEE and SCE leads to partial abrogation of the effects of HEE on the MLR initiated by DCs. These data provide a mechanism for the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric. However, they suggest that these extracts are not synergistic and may contain components with mutually antagonistic effects on human DCs. Harnessing the immune effects of turmeric may benefit from specifically targeting the active fractions.

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