Active ingredients from natural botanicals in the treatment of obesity

Obes Rev. 2014 Dec;15(12):957-67. doi: 10.1111/obr.12228. Epub 2014 Nov 23.


Obesity is considered as a chronic disease that can induce a series of comorbidities and complications. Chinese medicine has long clinical experiences in the treatment of obesity. This review summarizes the natural products from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that are reported to have anti-obesity effects in the past two decades. Botanic TCM comprises 90% of total Chinese crude drugs, and generally contains various active ingredients, in which the effective anti-obesity ingredients identified can be divided into saponins, polysaccharides, alkaloids, polyphenols and others. Astragaloside IV, glycyrrhizin, macrostemonoside A, berberine, betaine, capsaicin, matrine, methyl piperate, piperine, rutaecarpine, asimilobine, epigallocatechingallate, magnolol, resveratrol, soybean-isoflavone, α-linolenic acid, emodin, geniposide, phillyrin, salidroside and ursolic acid are specified in this review, and their sources, models, efficacy are described. It is concluded that the mechanisms of these components for the treatment of obesity include: (i) suppression of appetite, increase of satiety, reduction of energy intake; (ii) reduction in the digestion and absorption of exogenous lipid; (iii) attenuation of the synthesis of endogenous lipid; (iv) promotion of the oxidation and expenditure of lipid and (v) improvement of lipid metabolism disorder. Authors believe that the effective compounds from TCM will provide an alternative and hopeful way for the treatment of obesity.

Keywords: Active ingredients; obesity; traditional Chinese medicine; treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alkaloids
  • Anti-Obesity Agents*
  • Appetite / drug effects
  • Digestion / drug effects
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / therapeutic use
  • Energy Intake / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption / drug effects
  • Obesity / drug therapy*
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Polyphenols
  • Polysaccharides
  • Saponins
  • Satiation / drug effects


  • Alkaloids
  • Anti-Obesity Agents
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Polyphenols
  • Polysaccharides
  • Saponins