Potential benefits of phytochemicals against Alzheimer's disease

Proc Nutr Soc. 2017 May;76(2):106-112. doi: 10.1017/S0029665116002962. Epub 2017 Feb 1.


Our current therapeutic drugs for Alzheimer's disease are predominantly derived from the alkaloid class of plant phytochemicals. These drugs, such as galantamine and rivastigmine, attenuate the decline in the cholinergic system but, as the alkaloids occupy the most dangerous end of the phytochemical spectrum (indeed they function as feeding deterrents and poisons to other organisms within the plant itself), they are often associated with unpleasant side effects. In addition, these cholinesterase inhibiting alkaloids target only one system in a disorder, which is typified by multifactorial deficits. The present paper will look at the more benign terpene (such as Ginkgo biloba, Ginseng, Melissa officinalis (lemon balm) and Salvia lavandulaefolia (sage)) and phenolic (such as resveratrol) phytochemicals; arguing that they offer a safer alternative and that, as well as demonstrating efficacy in cholinesterase inhibition, these phytochemicals are able to target other salient systems such as cerebral blood flow, free radical scavenging, anti-inflammation, inhibition of amyloid-β neurotoxicity, glucoregulation and interaction with other neurotransmitters (such as γ-aminobutyric acid) and signalling pathways (e.g. via kinase enzymes).

Keywords: AD Alzheimer's disease; ADAS-cog Alzheimer's disease assessment scale; CNS central nervous system; Alkaloid; Alzheimer's disease; Phenolic; Phytochemicals; Terpene.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alkaloids / pharmacology
  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy*
  • Animals
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Galantamine / pharmacology
  • Ginkgo biloba / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Melissa / chemistry
  • Panax / chemistry
  • Phytochemicals / pharmacology*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Resveratrol
  • Rivastigmine / pharmacology
  • Salvia officinalis / chemistry
  • Stilbenes / pharmacology
  • Terpenes / pharmacology


  • Alkaloids
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors
  • Phytochemicals
  • Plant Extracts
  • Stilbenes
  • Terpenes
  • Galantamine
  • Rivastigmine
  • Resveratrol