Author(s): Efferth T, Koch E
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Abstract Drugs derived from natural resources represent a significant segment of the pharmaceutical market as compared to randomly synthesized compounds. It is a goal of drug development programs to design selective ligands that act on single disease targets to obtain highly effective and safe drugs with low side effects. Although this strategy was successful for many new therapies, there is a marked decline in the number of new drugs introduced into clinical practice over the past decades. One reason for this failure may be due to the fact that the pathogenesis of many diseases is rather multi-factorial in nature and not due to a single cause. Phytotherapy, whose therapeutic efficacy is based on the combined action of a mixture of constituents, offers new treatment opportunities. Because of their biological defence function, plant secondary metabolites act by targeting and disrupting the cell membrane, by binding and inhibiting specific proteins or they adhere to or intercalate into RNA or DNA. Phytotherapeutics may exhibit pharmacological effects by the synergistic or antagonistic interaction of many phytochemicals. Mechanistic reasons for interactions are bioavailability, interference with cellular transport processes, activation of pro-drugs or deactivation of active compounds to inactive metabolites, action of synergistic partners at different points of the same signalling cascade (multi-target effects) or inhibition of binding to target proteins. "-Omics" technologies and systems biology may facilitate unravelling synergistic effects of herbal mixtures.
This article was published in Curr Drug Targets
and referenced in Journal of Bioequivalence & Bioavailability