Antiallergic effect of Trigonella foenum-graecum L. extracts on allergic skin inflammation induced by trimellitic anhydride in BALB/c mice

J Ethnopharmacol. 2012 Dec 18;144(3):514-22. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2012.09.030. Epub 2012 Oct 2.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum L.) has a wide variety of therapeutic properties for allergic and inflammatory diseases and is used as a traditional functional food, but its antiallergenic mechanism in these diseases is yet to be clearly elucidated.

Aim: In the present study, we investigated the antiallergic activity of fenugreek extract using trimellitic anhydride (TMA)-induced contact hypersensitivity (CHS) mice in vivo and ovalbumin (OVA)-immunized BALB/c mice ex vivo as represented model of T-helper (Th) 2-induced allergy.

Materials and methods: BALB/c mice were administered 250 mg/kg body weight (BW) of fenugreek extract for 7 days after sensitization and challenge treatment with 2-5% TMA. Ear thickness were noted, and the infiltration of eosinophils and mast cells was investigated by hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) and toluidine blue (TB) staining. The supernatants from homogenized ear and splenocytes were used for cytokine determination using ELISA. In addition, splenocytes from OVA-immunized BALB/c mice were treated with fenugreek extract ex vivo. The levels of cytokines present in the supernatants were determined by ELISA. The mRNA expression of T-box transcription factor 21 gene (T-bet), GATA-binding protein 3 (GATA-3), interferon (IFN)-γ, and interleukin (IL)-4 were evaluated by real-time RT-PCR.

Results: Fenugreek extract was found to reduce ear thickness as well as the infiltration of eosinophils and mast cells. In homogenized ear, the production of IL-4, IL-5, IL-13, and IL-1β was suppressed. To determine the mechanism by which fenugreek extract inhibits allergic skin inflammation, detailed studies were conducted revealing that fenugreek extract prevented differentiation into Th2 cells in the splenocytes of OVA-induced allergic mice, resulting from suppressing the secretion of IL-4 and mRNA expression of GATA-3, an IL-4 transcription factor. In earlier phase, these extracts enhanced the secretion of IFN-γ, the mRNA expression of T-bet, an IFN-γ transcription factor, and the number of IFN-γ-producing CD4(+) T cells.

Conclusions: These results indicate that fenugreek extract cures Th2-induced allergic skin inflammation by enhancing Th1 differentiation. These data suggest that fenugreek extracts may prove to be an useful therapeutic agent on allergic inflammatory diseases as traditional use as well as Th2-mediated allergic response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Allergens
  • Animals
  • Anti-Allergic Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Allergic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / drug therapy*
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / etiology
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / immunology
  • Female
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Ovalbumin
  • Phthalic Anhydrides
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*
  • Seeds
  • Spleen / cytology
  • Spleen / immunology
  • Trigonella*


  • Allergens
  • Anti-Allergic Agents
  • Cytokines
  • Phthalic Anhydrides
  • Plant Extracts
  • trimellitic anhydride
  • Ovalbumin