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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2017 (2017), Article ID 5965371, 19 pages
Review Article

Botanicals as Modulators of Neuroplasticity: Focus on BDNF

Department of Pharmacological and Biomolecular Sciences, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy

Correspondence should be addressed to Francesca Calabrese; ti.iminu@eserbalac.acsecnarf

Received 7 June 2017; Revised 9 November 2017; Accepted 2 December 2017; Published 31 December 2017

Academic Editor: Stuart C. Mangel

Copyright © 2017 Enrico Sangiovanni et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The involvement of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in different central nervous system (CNS) diseases suggests that this neurotrophin may represent an interesting and reliable therapeutic target. Accordingly, the search for new compounds, also from natural sources, able to modulate BDNF has been increasingly explored. The present review considers the literature on the effects of botanicals on BDNF. Botanicals considered were Bacopa monnieri (L.) Pennell, Coffea arabica L., Crocus sativus L., Eleutherococcus senticosus Maxim., Camellia sinensis (L.) Kuntze (green tea), Ginkgo biloba L., Hypericum perforatum L., Olea europaea L. (olive oil), Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer, Rhodiola rosea L., Salvia miltiorrhiza Bunge, Vitis vinifera L., Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal, and Perilla frutescens (L.) Britton. The effect of the active principles responsible for the efficacy of the extracts is reviewed and discussed as well. The high number of articles published (more than one hundred manuscripts for 14 botanicals) supports the growing interest in the use of natural products as BDNF modulators. The studies reported strengthen the hypothesis that botanicals may be considered useful modulators of BDNF in CNS diseases, without high side effects. Further clinical studies are mandatory to confirm botanicals as preventive agents or as useful adjuvant to the pharmacological treatment.