Cistanche deserticola has commonly been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat many health problems including irritable bowel syndrome or constipation. This study was designed to test the efficacy of a water-extract of C. deserticola in the prevention of colorectal cancer in a mouse model. Polysaccharide-rich water-extract of C. deserticola was prepared by boiling its stem powder in distilled water. Tgfb1Rag2 null mice were used as an experimental model. Here we showed that feeding of water-extract of C. deserticola significantly reduced the number of mucosal hyperplasia and intestinal helicobacter infection in mice. This beneficial effect correlated with significant stimulation of the immune system, evidenced by the enlargement of the spleens with increased number of splenic macrophage and natural killer cells, and with more potent cytotoxicity of splenocytes. In vitro water-extract of C. deserticola enhanced the cytotoxicity of naïve splenocytes against a human colon cancer cell line, and in macrophage cultures up-regulated nitric oxide synthase II expression and stimulated phagocytosis. In conclusion, our data indicate that oral administration of C. deserticola extract reduces inflammatory hyperplastic polyps and helicobacter infection in mice by its immune-stimulatory activity, suggesting that C. deserticola extract may have potential in preventing intestinal inflammation disorders including colorectal cancer. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.