Phytochemistry and pharmacology of anti-depressant medicinal plants: A review

Biomed Pharmacother. 2018 Aug;104:343-365. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2018.05.044. Epub 2018 May 25.


Stress renders an individual to experience mental pressure and exhaustion which brings about feelings of anxiety, depression, anger and/or other negative emotions. Depression affects a person's state of mind, behaviour, health and is often associated with suicide. The use of anti-depressant drugs as therapeutic agents is associated with symptoms such as, delayed onset of action, side-effects, drug-drug and dietary interactions, sexual dysfunction, cardiac toxicity, etc. Thus, there is need to target these issues and improve current treatment options. Medicinal plants have long been used in discovering novel treatment strategies and compounds with promising roles in treating various disease conditions. There has been an increase, worldwide, in the use of medicinal plants and herbs for developing nutraceuticals for treatment of depression and other psychiatric disorders. Medicinal plants in their natural forms are valuable as they are rich in various phytochemical compounds. These phytochemical compounds have pharmacological roles in treating various diseases conditions; apart from being widely available in nature and commercially beneficial. The phytochemical compounds in plants are constantly being explored through various experimental studies to determine the molecular basis of how medicinal plants work in relation to drugs and diseases and to develop neutraceuticals for improving conditions. This review summarizes 110 medicinal plants and their phytochemical constituents that have been shown to possess anti-depressant activity. This review also highlights the various mechanisms of anti-depressant action of some of these plants and their plant parts like roots, stem, leaves, flowers, fruit or whole plant; phytochemical compounds showing anti-depressant activity such flavanoids, steroids, saponins, sugars, lectins, alkaloids, etc.; and various anti-depressant screening models used such as tail suspension test, forced swim test, chronic unpredictable stress test, sucrose preference test, monoamine oxidase inhibition assay, learned helplessness test, open field test, hole board test, etc. However, mechanistic evaluation of many of these plants still needs to be investigated and explored.

Keywords: Antidepressant; Depression; FST; MAO; Medicinal plants; Serotonin; TST.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Depression / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Phytochemicals / pharmacology*
  • Phytochemicals / therapeutic use*
  • Phytotherapy / methods
  • Plants, Medicinal / chemistry


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Phytochemicals