Saponins, an important group of bioactive plant natural products, are glycosides of triterpenoid or steroidal aglycones. Their diverse biological activities are ascribed to their different structures. Saponins have long been recognized as key ingredients in traditional Chinese medicine. Accumulated evidence suggests that saponins have significant neuroprotective effects on attenuation of central nervous system disorders, such as stroke, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and Huntington's disease. However, our understanding of the mechanisms underlying the observed effects remains incomplete. Based on recently reported data from basic and clinical studies, this review highlights the proposed mechanisms of their neuroprotective function including antioxidant, modulation of neurotransmitters, anti-apoptosis, anti-inflammation, attenuating Ca(2+) influx, modulating neurotrophic factors, inhibiting tau phosphorylation, and regeneration of neural networks.
Keywords: brain; mechanism; neurodegenerative disorders; neuroprotection; saponin; therapeutic potential of saponins.
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.