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J Pharmacol Sci. 2004 Nov;96(3):229-45. Epub 2004 Nov 12.

Anti-inflammatory plant flavonoids and cellular action mechanisms.

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College of Pharmacy, Kangwon National University, Chunchon, Korea.


Plant flavonoids show anti-inflammatory activity in vitro and in vivo. Although not fully understood, several action mechanisms are proposed to explain in vivo anti-inflammatory action. One of the important mechanisms is an inhibition of eicosanoid generating enzymes including phospholipase A2, cyclooxygenases, and lipoxygenases, thereby reducing the concentrations of prostanoids and leukotrienes. Recent studies have also shown that certain flavonoids, especially flavone derivatives, express their anti-inflammatory activity at least in part by modulation of proinflammatory gene expression such as cyclooxygenase-2, inducible nitric oxide synthase, and several pivotal cytokines. Due to these unique action mechanisms and significant in vivo activity, flavonoids are considered to be reasonable candidates for new anti-inflammatory drugs. To clearly establish the therapeutic value in inflammatory disorders, in vivo anti-inflammatory activity, and action mechanism of varieties of flavonoids need to be further elucidated. This review summarizes the effect of flavonoids on eicosanoid and nitric oxide generating enzymes and the effect on expression of proinflammatory genes. In vivo anti-inflammatory activity is also discussed. As natural modulators of proinflammatory gene expression, certain flavonoids have a potential for new anti-inflammatory agents.

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