Investigation of the effects of herbal active ingredients on the immune system and tumor cells



Chronic inflammatory diseases and tumors are the most common causes of death in the ageing population of industrialized nations. The immune system plays a crucial role in recognizing and fighting off tumour cells in the body. However, a dysregulated, chronically overactive immune system is also responsible for the development of chronic inflammatory diseases. At the same time, chronic inflammatory diseases are also responsible for the development of tumors. Excessive immune reactions that cause these inflammations must therefore be recognized early and targeted measures taken to restore a person's immune balance, in which pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory processes are in equilibrium.

In traditional medicine, there is a wealth of plants that are believed to have an anti-inflammatory effect.  However, as their mechanisms of action are often unknown, such herbal active ingredients are given relatively little consideration in conventional medicine (so-called orthodox medicine), although there is great potential here to contain inflammatory processes at an early stage and thus prevent long-term damage.

In order to systematically test the effectiveness of various plant preparations, we can now use modern scientific methods of immunology and tumor biology, which have only been available for a few years. This creates a new opportunity to research the effect of plants on the human body. Our aim is to gain scientifically sound knowledge of their mechanisms of action. On this basis, herbal active ingredients are to be systematically included in medical treatment recommendations in the sense of integrative medicine.

The effects of herbal substances on the immune system and tumor cells are being investigated at the university hospitals in Ulm, Freiburg and Heidelberg. In der traditionellen Medizin gibt es einen Fundus an Pflanzen, für die eine antientzündliche Wirkung angenommen wird.  Da deren Wirkmechanismen allerdings häufig nicht bekannt sind, werden solche pflanzlichen Wirkstoffe in der konventionellen Medizin (sog. Schulmedizin), relativ wenig berücksichtigt, obwohl es hier ein hohes Potential gibt, entzündliche Prozesse frühzeitig einzudämmen und damit Spätschäden zu vermeiden.


Selected publications:

Liang J, Ziegler JD, Jahraus B, Orlik C, Blatnik R, Blank N, Niesler B, Wabnitz G, Ruppert T, Hübner K, Balta E, Samstag Y (2020). Piperlongumine Acts as an Immunosuppresssant by Exerting Prooxidative Effects in Human T Cells Resulting in Diminished TH17 but Enhanced Treg Differentiation. Front Immunol. 11:1172. PubMed

Liang J, Hänsch GM, Hübner K, Samstag Y (2019). Sulforaphane as anticancer agent: A double-edged sword? Tricky balance between effects on tumor cells and immune cells. Adv Biol Regul. 71:79–87. PubMed

Lang SJ, Schmiech M, Hafner S, Paetz C, Steinborn C, Huber R, Gaafary ME, Werner K, Schmidt CQ, Syrovets T, Simmet T (2019). Antitumor activity of an Artemisia annua herbal preparation and identification of active ingredients. Phytomedicine. 62:152962. PubMed

Ulrich, J., S. Stiltz, A. St-Gelais, M. El Gaafary, Th. Simmet, T. Syrovets and M. Schmiech (2022). Phytochemical composition of Commiphora oleogum resins and their cytotoxicity against skin cancer cells. Molecules 27(12):3903. Pubmed

Devi S, Zimmermann-Klemd AM, Fiebich BL, Heinrich M, Gründemann C, Steinberger P, Kowarschik S, Huber R (2022). Immunosuppressive activity of non-psychoactive Cannabis sativa L. extract on the function of human T lymphocytes. Int Immunopharmacol. 103:108448. PubMed



more publications...