Kojic acid scavenges free radicals while potentiating leukocyte functions including free radical generation

Inflammation. 1991 Aug;15(4):303-15. doi: 10.1007/BF00917315.


The effects of kojic acid, a compound that suppresses melanogenesis and is widely consumed in the Japanese diet with the belief that it is beneficial to health, were investigated on several aspects of leukocyte function. Kojic acid significantly decreased the levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) (O2-, H2O2, OH.) generated by neutrophil and by a cell-free ROS-generating system. In contrast, it significantly enhanced neutrophil phagocytosis and ROS generation, and lymphocyte proliferation stimulated by phytohemagglutinin. In addition, calcium concentration, [Ca2+]i in human neutrophils was increased in the presence of kojic acid. These results suggest that kojic acid is a favorable agent in terms of host defense in that it enhances a number of activities of leukocytes, but scavenges ROS excessively released from cells or generated in the tissues or blood vessels that are potentially injurious to host tissues.

MeSH terms

  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cell-Free System
  • Chemotaxis, Leukocyte / drug effects
  • Free Radical Scavengers*
  • Free Radicals
  • Humans
  • Lymphocyte Activation / drug effects
  • Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • Neutrophils / drug effects*
  • Neutrophils / physiology
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Phagocytosis / drug effects
  • Phytohemagglutinins
  • Pyrones / pharmacology*
  • Respiratory Burst / drug effects*


  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Free Radicals
  • Phytohemagglutinins
  • Pyrones
  • kojic acid
  • Oxygen
  • Calcium