Mast cells and mast cell mediators as targets of dietary supplements

Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2004 Aug;93(2 Suppl 1):S24-34. doi: 10.1016/s1081-1206(10)61484-6.


Objective: To review the increasing amount of data that support or dispel the use of dietary supplements in the treatment of inflammatory conditions that involve mast cells, such as allergies, arthritis, and chronic pelvic pain syndrome.

Data sources: A search was conducted in MEDLINE for natural substances, dietary supplements, flavonoids, and proteoglycans for their in vitro or in vivo effects on allergic and inflammatory conditions.

Study selection: Studies were selected for inclusion because of the impact factor of the journal, the definitive nature of the findings, the soundness of the study design, and the expert opinion of the authors.

Results: Dietary supplements include a large group of products, such as vitamins, minerals, plant, or animal extracts, as well as herbal preparations that are often called medicinal herbs. Many of the available dietary supplements contain a multitude of ingredients, the source and/or purity of which is seldom disclosed; some of these may have biologic effects of their own or may interact with other supplements or drugs, often leading to adverse effects. The most well-documented evidence published to date is on the inhibitory action of natural compounds, especially flavonoids, on mast cells and allergic symptoms. Some flavonoids have weak inhibitory activity, whereas others may have no benefit or may be detrimental. Sulfated proteoglycans could provide synergistic action but require formulations with increased absorption.

Conclusions: Combining the most active flavonoids with proteoglycans could be helpful in atopic and inflammatory conditions. However, a complete list of active ingredients and their source, purity, and exact concentration should be a requirement for nutraceuticals to standardize, compare, and promote their safe use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Arthritis / physiopathology
  • Arthritis / therapy
  • Complementary Therapies
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Inflammation / therapy
  • Inflammation Mediators / physiology*
  • Mast Cells / drug effects
  • Mast Cells / physiology*
  • Plants, Medicinal
  • Respiratory Hypersensitivity / physiopathology
  • Respiratory Hypersensitivity / therapy
  • United States


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Inflammation Mediators