Clinical Reviews in Allergy & Immunology

, Volume 44, Issue 3, pp 229–241 | Cite as

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Immune Regulation

  • Hong-Di Ma
  • Yan-Ru Deng
  • Zhigang Tian
  • Zhe-Xiong LianEmail author


Traditional Chinese medicines (TCMs) have a long history in Asian countries and are traditionally used to prevent and treat a variety of diseases. The rising interest in TCMs in recent years is reflected in both the increase in their market demand as well as scientific research. Previous studies show that TCMs perform dual roles on immunological regulation: immunological activation and immunological suppression. This review highlights studies focusing on the immunomodulatory effects of TCMs, describing their stimulatory effect on immune cells, immune organs, cytokine production, tumorigenesis, as well as their inhibitory function on inflammation, allergy, autoimmune disease, and graft rejection. Components of both innate and adaptive immunity may be modulated by specific TCMs. TCMs may also have antitumor effects and may play a role in regulating apoptosis. Immunomodulatory effects of TCMs may lead to new medications to treat allergic and autoimmune diseases. More high quality studies are needed to achieve scientific validity to these potential treatments. Evidence presented in this review reveals the role of TCMs in immune regulation and proposes a promising future for them in immunomodulatory therapies.


Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) Immunomodulatory activities Immunological promotion Immunological suppression 



This study was supported by the National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program-2010CB945300), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (30972738, 31021061), and the Hundred Talents Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hong-Di Ma
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yan-Ru Deng
    • 1
    • 2
  • Zhigang Tian
    • 2
  • Zhe-Xiong Lian
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Liver Immunology LaboratoryUniversity of Science and Technology of ChinaHefeiChina
  2. 2.Institute of Immunology and School of Life SciencesUniversity of Science and Technology of ChinaHefeiChina

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