The importance of characterization of natural products with biological activity


Shiming Li

Department of Food Science, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New jersey, USA and College of Life Sciences, Huanggang Normal University, Hubei Province, China


              Natural products have been a rich source for discovery of many world’s most commonly used therapeutic drugs.  In view of the growing need for effective medicines and health promoting products, the potential for natural products to serve as safe and effective medicinal and natraceutical agents has gained increasing attention.  However, multiple molecular extracts must be chemically characterized and rigorously evaluated biologically to insure adequate consistency in the performance of in vitro bioactivity and in vivo efficacy.  The research in this field has been plagued by inconsistencies due in part to inadequate chemical characterization and documentation, making result comparison among different biological studies very difficult. Modern analytical chemistry and molecular evaluation methods now exist to insure sufficient transparency to avoid this limitation.  Furthermore, our understanding of the complexity of some diseases such as inflammation and cancer has advanced to enable significant insight into the mechanism of action of these natural extracts.  Here, we discuss the value of natural products as anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer agents, review approaches for their biological and chemical evaluation, and highlight challenges to the field.  We present two examples, black tea extracts and citrus peel extracts, highlighting the overall rigorous use of cell, molecular, and chemical methods for characterization and quality control as templates for future studies of biological activity of natural products.