Flavonoids and the central nervous system: from forgotten factors to potent anxiolytic compounds

J Pharm Pharmacol. 1999 May;51(5):519-26. doi: 10.1211/0022357991772790.


The list of activities of plant flavonoids did not include effects on the central nervous system (CNS) up to 1990, when our laboratory described the existence of natural anxiolytic flavonoids. The first of these was chrysin (5,7-dihydroxyflavone), followed by apigenin (5,7,4'-trihydroxyflavone) and flavone itself. Semisynthetic derivatives of flavone obtained by introducing halogens, nitro groups or both in its molecule, give rise to high affinity ligands for the benzodiazepine receptor, active in-vivo; 6,3'-dinitroflavone, for example, is an anxiolytic drug 30 times more potent than diazepam. The data collected in this paper make clear that some natural flavonoids are CNS-active molecules and that the chemical modification of the flavone nucleus dramatically increases their anxiolytic potency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / pharmacology*
  • Central Nervous System / drug effects*
  • Chamomile
  • Flavonoids / chemistry
  • Flavonoids / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Oils, Volatile / chemistry
  • Oils, Volatile / pharmacology
  • Plants, Medicinal


  • 6-bromo-3'-nitroflavone
  • 6-bromoflavone
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Flavonoids
  • Oils, Volatile
  • 3',6-dinitroflavone
  • chrysin