Health Benefits of Ursolic Acid
zhion@zhion.com     February 2009
Ursolic acid, a natural pentacyclic triterpenoid carboxylic
acid, is the major component of some traditional medicine
herbs and is well known to possess a wide range of
biological functions, such as antioxidative,
anti-inflammatory, antihyperlipidemic and anticancer
activities, that are able to counteract endogenous and
exogenous biological stimuli. [2- 4]

Ursolic acid is effective in protecting against chemically
induced liver injury in laboratory animals. The mechanism
of hepatoprotection by these two compounds may involve
the inhibition of toxicant activation and the enhancement of
the body defense systems. [2]

Anti-tumor activities

Ursolic acid has been noted for their antitumor-promotion
activities. Ursolic acid is capable of inducing apoptosis in
tumor cells on one side and to prevent malignant
transformation of normal cells on the other side. It also
interferes with numerous enzymes, including the ones
serving directly to DNA synthesis. [2]

Ursolic acid induced apoptosis via inhibition of NF-kappaB
induced bcl-2 mediated anti-apoptotic pathway and
subsequent activation of p53 mediated and TNF-alpha
induced caspase-3 mediated pro-apoptotic pathways in a
study of B16F-10 melanoma cells. [4]

In contrast to these beneficial properties, some laboratory
studies have recently revealed that the side effects of
ursolic acid on normal cells and tissues are occasionally
pro-inflammatory. [3, 4] Otherwise, ursolic acid is relatively
non-toxic, and have been used in cosmetics and health
products. [1]

[1] Liu J. Pharmacology of oleanolic acid and ursolic acid. J Ethnopharmacol. 1995
Dec 1;49(2):57-68. [2] Novotný L, et al, Ursolic acid: an anti-tumorigenic and
chemopreventive activity. Minireview. Neoplasma. 2001;48(4):241-6. [3] Ikeda Y, et
al, Ursolic acid: an anti- and pro-inflammatory triterpenoid. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2008
Jan;52(1):26-42. [4] Manu KA, Kuttan G. Ursolic acid induces apoptosis by activating
p53 and caspase-3 gene expressions and suppressing NF-kappaB mediated activation
of bcl-2 in B16F-10 melanoma cells. Int Immunopharmacol. 2008 Jul;8(7):974-81.
Epub 2008 Mar 26.
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