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J Ethnopharmacol. 1998 Jan; 59(3): 139-46.

Effects of a phytopreparation from Helleborus niger on immunocompetent cells in vitro.

Büssing A, Schweizer K.

Krebsforschung Herdecke, Department of Applied Immunology, Communal Hospital Herdecke, Germany.

Extracts of Helleborus species are used as phytopreparations with immunostimulatory properties in Romanian traditional medicine. In Germany, Helleborus niger is used in homeopathy and as an adjuvant therapy in the treatment of tumor patients in anthroposophical medicine. In vitro application of an aqueous extract from Helleborus niger resulted in a slight induction of sister chromatid exchanges (SCE) in cultured peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from healthy individuals, an effect associated with a slight increase of the [3H]thymidine uptake in the DNA of isolated lymphocytes. Since the cytokines interleukin (IL)-2 and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha were reported to increase the number of SCE, we measured the concentrations of these cytokines in the supernatants of cultured PBMC treated with the plant extract. Here, no significant changes were observed as compared with the controls, but a trend to higher supernatant concentrations of TNF-alpha in six out of ten individuals was noted. Compared with lymphocytes treated with the alkylating substance, cyclophosphamide, the increase of the SCE levels induced by the plant extract is weak. The relevance of this DNA destabilizing property remains to be clarified.

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