The Potential Therapeutic Value of Medicinal Plants in the Management of Metabolic Disorders
Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a prevalent, multifactorial and complex disease that is associated with an increased risk of developing diabetes and other major cardiovascular complications. The rise in the global prevalence of MetS has been attributed to genetic, epigenetic, and environmental factors. The adoption of sedentary lifestyles that are characterized by low physical activity and the consumption of high-energy diets contributes to MetS development. Current management criteria for MetS
... riteria for MetS risk factors involve changes in lifestyle and the use of pharmacological agents that target specific biochemical pathways involved in the metabolism of nutrients. Pharmaceutical drugs are usually expensive and are associated with several undesirable side effects. Alternative management strategies of MetS risk factors involve the use of medicinal plants that are considered to have multiple therapeutic targets and are easily accessible. Medicinal plants contain several different biologically active compounds that provide health benefits. The impact of phytochemicals present in local medicinal plants on sustainable health and well-being of individuals has been studied for many years and found to involve a plethora of complex biochemical, metabolic, and physiological mechanisms. While some of these phytochemicals are the basis of mainstream prescribed drugs (e.g., metformin, reserpine, quinine, and salicin), there is a need to identify more medicinal plants that can be used for the management of components of MetS and to describe their possible mechanisms of action. In this review, we assess the potential health benefits of South African ethnomedicinal plants in protecting against the development of health outcomes associated with MetS. We aim to provide the state of the current knowledge on the use of medicinal plants and their therapeutically important phytochemicals by discussing the current trends, with critical examples from recent primary references of how medicinal plants are being used in South African rural and urban communities.