Immunomodulating effects of epigallocatechin-3-gallate from green tea: mechanisms and applications

Food Funct. 2013 Sep;4(9):1287-303. doi: 10.1039/c3fo60076a.


Consuming green tea or its active ingredient, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), has been shown consistently to benefit the healthy functioning of several body systems. In the immune system specifically, accumulating evidence has revealed an immunomodulating effect of green tea/EGCG. Several types of immune cells in both the innate and adaptive immune systems are known to be affected in varying degrees by green tea/EGCG. Among them, the dramatic effect on T cell functions has been repeatedly demonstrated, including T cell activation, proliferation, differentiation, and production of cytokines. In particular, dysregulated T cell function with respect to different subsets of CD4(+) T cells is a critical pathogenic factor in the development of autoimmune inflammatory diseases. Recent studies have shown that EGCG affects the differentiation of naïve CD4(+) T cells into different effector subsets in a way that would be expected to favorably impact autoimmunity. Consistent with these findings, studies using animal models of autoimmune diseases have reported disease improvement in animals treated with green tea/EGCG. Altogether, these studies identify and support the use of EGCG as a potential therapeutic agent in preventing and ameliorating T cell-mediated autoimmune diseases. Given the paucity of information in human studies, the translational value of these findings needs to be verified in future research.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmune Diseases / drug therapy
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Catechin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Catechin / pharmacology
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Immune System / cytology
  • Immune System / drug effects
  • Immunity, Innate / drug effects
  • Immunomodulation / physiology*
  • Models, Animal
  • Tea / chemistry*


  • Tea
  • Catechin
  • epigallocatechin gallate