Traditional herbal medicines, which emphasize a holistic, patient-centric view of disease treatment, provide an exciting starting point for discovery of new immunomodulatory drugs. Progress on identification of herbal molecules with proven single agent activity has been slow, in part because of insufficient consideration of pharmacology fundamentals. Many molecules derived from medicinal plants exhibit low oral bioavailability and rapid clearance, leading to low systemic exposure. Recent research suggests that such molecules can act locally in the gut or liver to activate xenobiotic defense pathways that trigger beneficial systemic effects on the immune system. We discuss this hypothesis in the context of four plant-derived molecules with immunomodulatory activity: Indigo, polysaccharides, colchicine, and ginsenosides. We end by proposing research strategies for identification of novel immunomodulatory drugs from herbal medicine sources that are informed by the possibility of local action in the gut or liver, leading to generation of systemic immune mediators.
Scopus Subject Areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)