Understanding the Molecular Mechanisms of the Interplay Between Herbal Medicines and Gut Microbiota

Jun Xu, Hubiao Chen*, Song Lin Li

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

259 Citations (Scopus)


Herbal medicines (HMs) are much appreciated for their significant contribution to human survival and reproduction by remedial and prophylactic management of diseases. Defining the scientific basis of HMs will substantiate their value and promote their modernization. Ever-increasing evidence suggests that gut microbiota plays a crucial role in HM therapy by complicated interplay with HM components. This interplay includes such activities as: gut microbiota biotransforming HM chemicals into metabolites that harbor different bioavailability and bioactivity/toxicity from their precursors; HM chemicals improving the composition of gut microbiota, consequently ameliorating its dysfunction as well as associated pathological conditions; and gut microbiota mediating the interactions (synergistic and antagonistic) between the multiple chemicals in HMs. More advanced experimental designs are recommended for future study, such as overall chemical characterization of gut microbiota-metabolized HMs, direct microbial analysis of HM-targeted gut microbiota, and precise gut microbiota research model development. The outcomes of such research can further elucidate the interactions between HMs and gut microbiota, thereby opening a new window for defining the scientific basis of HMs and for guiding HM-based drug discovery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1140-1185
Number of pages46
JournalMedicinal Research Reviews
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery

User-Defined Keywords

  • gut microbiota
  • herbal medicines
  • interplay
  • molecular mechanisms


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