This bright-yellow substance combats almost any type of cancer you can think of. It protects the brain, helps with diabetes, wards off infections, and more. The best part? You will find it many fruits and veggies. Check out the fantastic benefits of luteolin, but don’t jump to conclusions before reading the side effects and limitations.

What Is Luteolin?

Luteolin is a flavonoid present in many fruits, vegetables, and medicinal herbs. Flavonoids protect plants from microbes and other environmental threats and provide us with a range of health benefits.

Herbal traditions around the globe use luteolin-rich plants to strengthen the immune system, relieve inflammation, and even combat cancer [R, R].

Did you know? Both “flavonoid” and “luteolin” have the yellow color in their names (Latin: lūteus, flavus). Luteolin is bright yellow in its crystalline form, but don’t confuse it with yellow plant pigment, lutein.

Snapshot of Luteolin

PROS:

  • Relieves inflammation and oxidative stress
  • Protects the brain and stimulates cognition
  • Combats different types of cancer
  • Prevents cardiovascular disease
  • Wards off bacterial and viral infections
  • Prevents diabetes complications
  • May help with thyroid issues and allergies

CONS:

  • Not well studied in humans
  • May disrupt progesterone functions
  • May worsen colon inflammation
  • Beneficial doses hard to achieve with foods

Luteolin Foods

Green leaves such as parsley and celery top the list of luteolin-rich foods. Dandelion, onion and olive leaves are also a good source. Other luteolin foods include [R, R]:

  • Citrus fruits (lemon, orange, grapefruit)
  • Spices (thyme, peppermint, rosemary, oregano)
  • Vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, carrots, peppers)

Health Benefits of Luteolin

How It Works

Luteolin has potent anticancer properties. It inhibits the growth of new blood vessels in tumors, blocks the metabolic activation of carcinogens, and stops cancer cell division. Luteolin can also kill different types of cancer cells and make them more sensitive to chemotherapy [R, R, R].

Besides its anticancer effects, luteolin can [R, R, R]:

  • Combat inflammation
  • Block oxidative damage
  • Balance hormones (estrogen and progesterone)
  • Fight bacteria and viruses

Luteolin can stimulate oxidation in some cases, and this effect probably helps remove damaged cells and pathogens [R].

1) Protects the Brain and Nerves

Autism

Did you know? The rate of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) increased by 289.5% from 1997 to 2008. Brain damage and inflammation may hinder nerve development and trigger ASD [R, R].

In 50 children with ASD, a supplement with luteolin, quercetin, and rutin showed promising results. The children’s coordination, social skills, and behavior improved by 27 35% [R].

This study had a small sample and lacked a control group. Well-designed clinical trials should confirm this effect of luteolin and other flavonoids.

Luteolin was able to protect the brain and enhance nerve development in different animal and cell studies by [R, R, R, R, R]:

  • Reducing glutamate levels
  • Combating brain inflammation and oxidative stress
  • Supporting neuron growth in the hippocampus
  • Preventing protein mutations

Alzheimer’s Disease

Studies on rats with Alzheimer’s Disease have confirmed the anti-inflammatory and brain-protecting effects of luteolin. It prevented Alzheimer’s in the animals by enhancing their cognition, memory, and coordination [R, R, R].

Luteolin shields human brain cells against free-radical damage and inflammatory proteins specific to this disease [R, R].

Depression

Luteolin may combat depression in mice by protecting the nerves in the hippocampus (brain center for emotions and memory) and activating GABA receptors [R, R, R, R].

Seizures

In mice with seizures, luteolin was able to [R, R]:

  • Boost glutathione and reduce oxidative brain damage
  • Increase the beneficial proteins – BDNF and CREB
  • Reverse cognitive impairment
  • Prevent seizures and decrease their severity

Other

Luteolin showed similar protective effects in mice with different neurological disorders. As a result, it reduced the symptoms of [R, R, R, R]:

2) Fights Cancer

With skyrocketing cancer rates in the US and other developed countries, the quest for the “magic pill” continues. Here’s why luteolin might find its place in one such pill.

In studies on mice and other lab animals, luteolin prevented the growth of:

  • Prostate cancer [R]
  • Breast cancer [R, R, R]
  • Lung cancer [R]
  • Stomach cancer [R, R, R]
  • Colon cancer [R]
  • Ovarian cancer [R]
  • Liver cancer [R]

Cells studies have added pancreatic and brain cancer to the list of luteolin targets. It can even combat drug-resistant cancers and boost the effects of chemotherapy – all without damaging the healthy cells or hurting the animals [R, R, R, R, R, R].

The above results should pave the way of luteolin into the future of cancer research. Unfortunately, clinical trials haven’t yet verified its cancer-fighting properties.

3) Prevents Bacterial and Viral Infections

Bacterial Infections

The cell wall of gram-negative bacteria contains lipopolysaccharides (LPS). This combination of carbs and lipids can trigger severe inflammation in our bodies and cause different symptoms of bacterial infection [R].

In studies on mice, luteolin blocked LPS-induced inflammation and protected the animals against deadly infections. It was able to increase survival by up to 44% [R, R, R].

Luteolin prevented LPS-induced eye infection in rats by inhibiting inflammatory molecules (TNF-alpha, nitric oxide, and prostaglandin-E2). It was as effective as a corticosteroid drug, prednisolone [R].

Cell studies have confirmed the potential of luteolin to reverse the inflammation triggered by LPS. It blocked inflammatory enzymes such as iNOS and COX-2 [R, R].

Luteolin prevented breast inflammation (caused by S. aureus) and lung inflammation (caused by C. pneumoniae and Chlamydia) in mice [R, R].

Viral Infections

In mice, luteolin inhibited the spreading of Epstein-Barr virus, preventing nose and throat cancer triggered by this virus. It also blocked the hepatitis B virus, which may cause severe liver damage [R, R, R].

In a cell study, luteolin showed potent activity against Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV), the leading cause of viral brain inflammation [R].

4) Boosts Cardiovascular Health

Cardiovascular diseases still top the list of death causes, claiming ¼ of lives in the US [R].

In studies on rats and their isolated hearts, luteolin was able to [R, R, R, R, R]:

  • Strengthen heart cells and enhance contractions
  • Stabilize heart enzymes
  • Prevent tissue damage and cell death
  • Protect the cells against oxidative stress during a heart attack

Luteolin decreased inflammation and fat buildup in blood vessels of mice, protecting them against atherosclerosis [R, R].

5) Prevents Diabetes Complications

In diabetes, high glucose levels eventually damage blood vessels, causing a wide range of diabetes complications. Oxidative stress plays a pivotal role in these complications [R].

Luteolin relieved oxidative damage in diabetic rats, protecting them against [R, R, R]:

  • Diabetic encephalopathy (brain damage)
  • Diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage)
  • Diabetic cystopathy (bladder dysfunction)

In test tubes, the antioxidant effects of luteolin prevented diabetic osteopathy, or bone degradation [R].

6) Supports the Thyroid

Luteolin relieved thyroid inflammation in mice with Hashimoto’s disease. It blocked COX-2 and TNF-alpha, preventing the autoimmune thyroid destruction [R].

7) Relieves Asthma and Allergies

In mice, luteolin prevented inflammation and allergic response in the lungs and nose by inhibiting inflammatory cytokines: IL-4, IL-5, and IL-13 [R].

It can also stabilize mast cells, which release histamine and trigger allergic reactions [R].

8) Protects the Skin Against UV Radiation

Ever heard advice to “eat your sunscreen”? Here’s how it works: when you consume them, antioxidants such as luteolin protect your skin from the inside and prevent UV-induced damage.

Studies on mice have confirmed this effect of luteolin. It reversed skin aging (by blocking MMP-1 expression) and even prevented skin cancer [R, R].

9) Effects on Testosterone

Cell-based studies reveal that luteolin is a natural aromatase inhibitor. By blocking aromatase, it reduces the conversion of male sex hormones to estrogens.

This might be especially useful for postmenopausal (ER+) breast cancer, and luteolin has been used alongside other aromatase inhibitors to reduce their side effects [R, R].

By blocking aromatase, luteolin might also work as a testosterone booster.

As an added benefit, this antioxidant may also protect men from the negative effects of electromagnetic fields on reproductive health. The cell phones we carry everywhere nowadays are one source of exposure.

Luteolin increased testosterone levels and prevented testicle shrinking in rats exposed to strong electromagnetic fields [R].

10) Hair Growth

Many factors can trigger hair loss, but high levels of an inflammatory substance called prostaglandin D2 (PGD2) might be one of the culprits, especially in men. Mice with high PGD2 levels develop baldness and oily skin [R, R].

Scientists consider that lowering PGD2 may hold the “cure” for baldness. It might also speed up skin regeneration and enhance scalp health, while high PGD2 levels block skin repair mechanisms [R, R, R].

How can luteolin help?

In rat and cell-based studies, luteolin lowered PGD2. In turn, it might boost hair growth. But have in mind that the available research is very limited. Whether or not luteolin can reverse hair loss in humans is far from certain [R, R].

Limitations and Caveats

Luteolin has shown encouraging effects in animal models of cancer and other chronic diseases but lacks solid clinical data to support these findings.

Average dietary intake of luteolin can’t match the doses used in research and our bodies quickly break it down [R, R, R].

Advanced supplement formulations with luteolin may help overcome this issue and take advantage of its health benefits (see “Luteolin Supplements” below).

Luteolin Dosage & Supplement Forms

Luteolin is available in different supplement forms including:

  • Powders
  • Pills
  • Chewable tablets

Most products contain a mixture of luteolin and rutin, which is a flavonoid derived from quercetin. Doses range from 100 – 300 mg per serving.

One supplement (NeuroProtek) contains a unique combination: luteolin + quercetin + rutin (100/70/30 mg per serving).

In addition to individual supplements and flavonoid combinations, luteolin is present in different herbal supplements for immunity and antioxidant support.

Luteolin Side Effects & Precautions

Treatment with luteolin and other flavonoids temporarily increased irritability in 50% of children with autism spectrum disorders [R].

In animal and cell studies, luteolin didn’t harm healthy cells or cause significant side effects [R, R].

Luteolin blocks the effects of progesterone and thus helps combat breast cancer, but this effect might be detrimental in cases of uterine and cervical cancer. The evidence around its effect on estrogen is contradicting and requires further investigation [R, R].

While luteolin prevented spontaneous colitis (colon inflammation) in animals, it worsened chemically-induced colitis. By inhibiting NF-kB, it blocks protective molecules in intestinal cells [R].

Pregnant women and children should avoid luteolin supplements, unless under strict medical supervision.

Buy Luteolin Supplements

Our bodies quickly metabolize luteolin so you may want to consider natural supplements with a range of flavonoids, such as:

Pure luteolin supplements and flavonoid combinations are also available:

This section contains sponsored links, which means that we may receive a small percentage of profit from your purchase, while the price remains the same to you. The proceeds from your purchase support our research and work. Thank you for your support.

Take-Away:

Luteolin is a flavonoid with potent anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. Food sources of luteolin include citrus fruits, leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, and spices.

According to animal and cell studies, luteolin can protect the brain and nerves, prevent cancer and diabetes complications, boost cardiovascular health, and more. It showed promising results in children with autism spectrum disorders but still lacks well-designed clinical trials.

Luteolin may worsen cervical cancer and some forms of colon inflammation. Pregnant women and children should take luteolin under strict medical supervision only.

Supplements usually contain a mixture of luteolin and other flavonoids such as rutin and quercetin; they are available as pills or powders.

About the Author

Aleksa Ristic, MSc (Pharm)

MS Pharm

Aleksa received his MS in Pharmacy from the University of Belgrade, his master thesis focusing on protein sources in plant-based diets.

 

Aleksa is passionate about herbal pharmacy, nutrition, and functional medicine. He found a way to merge his two biggest passions—writing and health—and use them for noble purposes. His mission is to bridge the gap between science and everyday life, helping readers improve their health and feel better.

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