Recent developments on the extraction and application of ursolic acid. A review

Food Res Int. 2018 Jan;103:130-149. doi: 10.1016/j.foodres.2017.10.028. Epub 2017 Oct 16.


Ursolic acid (UA) is a pentacyclic triterpenoid widely found in herbs, leaves, flowers and fruits; update information on the major natural sources or agro-industrial wastes is presented. Traditional (maceration, Soxhlet and heat reflux) and modern (microwave-, ultrasound-, accelerated solvent- and supercritical fluid) extraction and purification technologies of UA, as well as some patented process, are summarized. The great interest in this bioactive compound is related to the beneficial effects in human health due to antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, immunomodulatory, anti-tumor, chemopreventive, cardioprotective, antihyperlipidemic and hypoglycemic activities, and others. UA may augment the resistance of the skin barrier to irritants, prevent dry skin and could be suitable to develop antiaging products. The development of nanocrystals and nanoparticle-based drugs could reduce the side effects of high doses of UA in organisms, and increase its limited solubility and poor bioavailability of UA which limit the potential of this bioactive and the further applications. Commercial patented applications in relation to cosmetical and pharmaceutical uses of UA and its derivatives are surveyed.

Keywords: Cosmetic; Extraction techniques; Health; Natural sources; Ursolic acid.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chemical Fractionation / methods*
  • Consumer Product Safety
  • Cosmetics / adverse effects
  • Cosmetics / isolation & purification
  • Cosmetics / therapeutic use*
  • Dietary Supplements* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Patient Safety
  • Plant Extracts / adverse effects
  • Plant Extracts / isolation & purification*
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Triterpenes / adverse effects
  • Triterpenes / isolation & purification*
  • Triterpenes / therapeutic use*


  • Cosmetics
  • Plant Extracts
  • Triterpenes
  • ursolic acid