Dementia is becoming a major public health problem worldwide. The most common form
of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease (AD), characterized by a deficient cholinergic transmission,
deposition of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, and neuro-inflammation that result in
progressive degeneration and/or death of nerve cells and cognitive impairment. At present, AD cannot
be prevented or cured, so the symptomatic relief obtainable by the use of acetylcholinesterase (AChE)
inhibitors is one of the therapeutic strategies. Accumulated evidence suggests that naturally occurring
compounds may potentially improve memory and cognitive function, and prevent neurodegeneration.
Even today the search for new neuroprotective agents of natural origin is very active. The neuroprotective effects of
medicinal plants covering studies of the last years will be summarized and discussed in this review choosing a family
classification with particular emphasis on extracts and isolated compounds as promising new drugs. The search of a
multifunctional potential anti-AD agent able to act on different crucial targets, such as galanthamine, quercetin and
timosaponin AIII, could be a useful approach to recognizing therapeutics against AD.
Keywords: Acetylcholinesterase, Alzheimer’s disease, butyrylcholinesterase, dementia, medicinal plants, natural compounds.
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