Phytosteroids beyond estrogens: Regulators of reproductive and endocrine function in natural products

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2017 Feb 15;442:98-105. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2016.12.013. Epub 2016 Dec 13.


Foods and botanical supplements can interfere with the endocrine system through the presence of phytosteroids - chemicals that interact with steroids receptors. Phytoestrogens are well studied, but compounds such as kaempferol, apigenin, genistein, ginsenoside Rf, and glycyrrhetinic acid have been shown to interact with non-estrogen nuclear receptors. These compounds can have agonist, antagonist, or mixed agonist/antagonist activity depending on compound, receptor, cell line or tissue, and concentration. Some phytosteroids have also been shown to inhibit steroid metabolizing enzymes, resulting in biological effects through altered endogenous steroid concentrations. An interesting example, compound A (4-[1-chloro-2-(methylamino)ethyl]phenyl acetate hydrochloride (1:1)) is a promising selective glucocorticoid receptor modulator (SGRM) based on a phytosteroid isolated from Salsola tuberculatiformis Botschantzev. Given that $6.9 billion of herbal supplements are sold each year, is clear that further identification and characterization of phytosteroids is needed to ensure the safe and effective use of botanical supplements.

Keywords: Androgen; Corticoid; Herbal supplement; Phytosteroid; Progestin.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Products / pharmacology*
  • Endocrine System / drug effects*
  • Estrogens / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Phytosterols / pharmacology*
  • Reproduction / drug effects*


  • Biological Products
  • Estrogens
  • Phytosterols