Effect of Specific Medicinal Herbs on Immune System and Immune Cells

Systematic studies on the effect of specific medicinal herbs on immune system are designed to obtain evidence-based scientific knowledge on the appropriate use of traditional medicinal herbs. The development of immunology has resulted in further complexity by combining external (environment and pathogens) and internal (neuroendocrine-immune system) factors in the pathogenesis of infectious diseases. The most important thing is to learn how to modulate the immune response to external conditions with powerful new techniques and drugs. Immunopharmacol-ogy is still a young science, and the molecular complexity of the immune system is not yet fully understood. Nevertheless, along with Metchnikoff, we can say, "we therefore have the right to hope that in the future, medicine will find more than one way to bring phagocytes into play for the benefit of health" [1-3].

Traditional herbal medicine provides several remedies for strengthening the body's resistance to illness through effects on immune system components such as dendritic cells, T cells, macrophages, etc. [18].

Inflammation is the body's protective reaction to controlling infections and promoting tissue repair. However, uncontrolled and excessive inflammation results in tissue damage and diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis, cancer, etc. Recently many laboratories have focused on the identification of immunomodulatory phytocompounds from herbal medicines that are reported to modulate immunity. Several biochemical, cellular immunological, and molecular biological techniques and mouse models have been used to investigate the immunomodulatory function of phytocompounds (e.g. Echinacea, Bidens) in regulating immunity, and in modulating human immune cells including T cells, macrophages, and dendritic cell functions. Several plant compounds are known to be able to bind T cell components and to regulate T cell function. For example, ConA, a plant lectin, can activate T cells by cross linking glycoproteins such as the TCR/CD3 complex. The identification of genes involved in T cell function is also very important. In T cell differentiation several genes play very important roles. These gene products can be important for screening the phytocompounds to which the gene products can bind. Also an understanding of important signaling molecules in T cells helps us to screen their interaction partners from plants [1, 2, 19-23].

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