There are more than 1000 plant species that may have therapeutic relevance in tackling neurodegenerative diseases such as Friedreich ataxia, spinal muscular atrophy, and multiple sclerosis, according to a study published in IBRO Neuroscience Reports.

While significant pharmacological progress has been made for certain diseases (such as those involving the cardiopulmonary system), effective therapies tackling neurodegeneration are still falling behind. Many neurodegenerative conditions, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Huntington’s disease (HD), remain uniformly fatal. 

Scientists are hence revisiting various plant species to identify ingredients that have therapeutic potential in treating neurodegenerative disorders. Medical literature already contains an abundance of research regarding the therapeutic potential of certain plants in treating neurodegeneration, but research is typically only concentrated on a few of them.

The authors of this study sought to conduct a literature review on available studies describing the therapeutic potential of certain plant species in halting neurodegeneration. They conducted their research using PubMed and Google Scholar between October 2017 and August 2021, taking into account all relevant studies, regardless of their date of publication. The inclusion criteria were that the studies must have relevant and adequate data/evidence supporting their claims. 

Read more about the etiology of Friedreich ataxia

Among 2001 plant species previously identified as having ethnomedicinal uses for alleviating symptoms relevant to neurodegenerative disorders, the research team reported that 1339 (67%) had at least 1 bioactivity of therapeutic relevance.

Researchers also discovered that 85 plant species had mechanisms of action that reduced the levels of misfolded proteins in underlying diseases such as ALS and HD. Interestingly, the research team discovered that human studies were strongly represented (122 clinical trials across 24 therapeutic categories), despite most studies being conducted in vitro or on animal models. 

“The study provides a repository of plant species as a basis for investigations to find novel compounds with more desirable characteristics, such as improved bioavailability and capacity to pass the [blood-brain barrier],” the authors concluded. 


Tyler SEB, Tyler LDK. Pathways to healing: plants with therapeutic potential for neurodegenerative diseasesIBRO Neurosci Rep. Published online February 10, 2023. doi:10.1016/j.ibneur.2023.01.006