Glucocorticoids are widely used for their potent anti-inflammatory effects. Endogenous glucocorticoids are immunomodulatory and shape both adaptive and innate immune responses. Over the past decade, it has become apparent that an important level of control over endogenous glucocorticoid action is exerted by the 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase enzymes. The type 1 enzyme, 11beta-HSD1, reduces inert glucocorticoids into active forms, thereby increasing intracellular ligand availability to receptors. Although 11beta-HSD1 activity has been shown to play an important role in the metabolic actions of glucocorticoids, its role in the immune response has, until recently, remained unclear. Here we review recent evidence pertaining to the role of 11beta-HSD1 in the inflammatory response.