Curcumin, the principal active component of turmeric, has long been used to treat various diseases in India and China. Recent studies show that curcumin can serve as a therapeutic agent for autoimmune diseases via a variety of mechanisms. Effector memory T cells (TEM, CCR7-CD45RO+ T lymphocyte) have been demonstrated to play a crucial role in the pathogenesis of T cell-mediated autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis (MS) or rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Kv1.3 channels are predominantly expressed in TEM cells and control TEM activities. In the present study, we examined the effect of curcumin on human Kv1.3 (hKv1.3) channels stably expressed in HEK-293 cells and its ability to inhibit proliferation and cytokine secretion of TEM cells isolated from patients with MS or RA. Curcumin exhibited a direct blockage of hKv1.3 channels in a time-dependent and concentration-dependent manner. Moreover, the activation curve was shifted to a more positive potential, which was consistent with an open-channel blockade. Paralleling hKv1.3 inhibition, curcumin significantly inhibited proliferation and interferon-γ secretion of TEM cells. Our findings demonstrate that curcumin is able to inhibit proliferation and proinflammatory cytokine secretion of TEM cells probably through inhibition of hKv1.3 channels, which contributes to the potency of curcumin for the treatment of autoimmune diseases. This is probably one of pharmacological mechanisms of curcumin used to treat autoimmune diseases. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.