Effects of rooibos tea extract on antigen-specific antibody production and cytokine generation in vitro and in vivo

Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2001 Oct;65(10):2137-45. doi: 10.1271/bbb.65.2137.


Rooibos tea contains a large amount of flavonoids and acts as a potent antioxidant. In this study, we examined the effects of Rooibos tea extract on antigen-specific antibody production and cytokine generation in vitro and in vivo. The primary in vitro anti-ovalbumin (anti-OVA) or sheep red blood cell (SRBC) antibody production in murine splenocytes was markedly stimulated by the addition of the tea extract at concentrations of 1-100 microg/ml. On the other hand, a nonspecific antibody response elicited with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in purified splenic B-cells was not modified by the extract. Rooibos tea extract caused an increase in the generation of interleukin 2 (IL-2) both in OVA- and anti-CD3-primed splenocytes at concentrations ranging from 10 microg/ml to 1000 microg/ml. In contrast, this tea extract suppressed the generation of interleukin 4 (IL-4) in OVA-primed splenocytes. Moreover, the reduction of OVA-induced antibody production in serum of the cyclosporin A (CyA) -treated rats can be significantly restored and the IL-2 generation in murine splenocytes was stimulated, following oral administrations of Rooibos tea extract. Thus, our findings suggested that Rooibos tea extract may facilitate the antigen-specific antibody production through selective augmentation of IL-2 generation both in vitro and in vivo. Collectively, Rooibos tea intake may be of value in prophylaxis of the diseases involving a severe defect in Th1 immune response such as cancer, allergy, AIDS, and other infections.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibody Specificity
  • B-Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Beverages
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis*
  • Female
  • Immunoglobulin M / biosynthesis*
  • Interleukin-2 / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-4 / biosynthesis
  • Lipopolysaccharides / pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Ovalbumin / immunology
  • Plant Extracts / immunology
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plants, Medicinal / chemistry*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Rosales / chemistry
  • Specific Pathogen-Free Organisms


  • Cytokines
  • Immunoglobulin M
  • Interleukin-2
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Plant Extracts
  • Interleukin-4
  • Ovalbumin