Chinese herbs and herbal extracts for neuroprotection of dopaminergic neurons and potential therapeutic treatment of Parkinson's disease

CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2007 Aug;6(4):273-81. doi: 10.2174/187152707781387288.


Parkinson's disease (PD) is a common and debilitating degenerative disease resulting from massive degenerative loss of dopamine neurons, particularly in the substantia nigra. The most classic therapy for PD is levodopa administration, but the efficacy of levodopa treatment declines as the disease progresses. The neuroprotective strategies to rescue nigral dopamine neurons from progressive death are currently being explored, and among them, the Chinese herbs and herbal extracts have shown potential clinical benefit in attenuating the progression of PD in human beings. Growing studies have indicated that a range of Chinese herbs or herbal extracts such as green tea polyphenols or catechins, panax ginseng and ginsenoside, ginkgo biloba and EGb 761, polygonum, triptolide from tripterygium wilfordii hook, polysaccharides from the flowers of nerium indicum, oil from ganoderma lucidum spores, huperzine and stepholidine are able to attenuate degeneration of dopamine neurons and sympotoms caused by the neurotoxins 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) and 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) in vitro and in vivo conditions. In addition, accumulating data have suggested that Chinese herbs or herbal extracts may promote neuronal survival and neurite growth, and facilitate functional recovery of brain injures by invoking distinct mechanisms that are related to their neuroprotective roles as the antioxidants, dopamine transporter inhibitor, monoamine oxidase inhibitor, free radical scavengers, chelators of harmful metal ions, modulating cell survival genes and signaling, anti-apoptosis activity, and even improving brain blood circulation. New pharmaceutical strategies against PD will hopefully be discovered by understanding the various active entities and valuable combinations that contribute to the biological effects of Chinese herbs and herbal extracts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antiparkinson Agents*
  • Dopamine / physiology*
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / pharmacology*
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neuroprotective Agents*
  • Parkinson Disease / drug therapy*
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use


  • Antiparkinson Agents
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Plant Extracts
  • Dopamine