Several chronic diseases affect humanity due to modern lifestyle. These diseases have the debilitating effect of considerably limiting a person's life span. Such diseases include cancer, cardiovascular, diabetes. The increasing trend of life-threatening chronic diseases has a major impact on the health care system in the word. The current therapies for treatment of life-threatening diseases such as anticancer drugs (e.g. doxorubicin, etoposide, camptothecin, 5-fluorouracil and cyclophosphamide), oral anti-diabetic drugs (e.g. sulfonylureas, biguanides, α- glucosidase inhibitors), and other anti-cardiovascular drugs, are used as monotherapy or in combination. However, these agents have many undesirable side effects. Therefore, identification of safer and more effective therapeutics for life-threatening diseases is the hot topic in modern drug discovery. Natural products from herbal plants play an important role in the prevention and cure of these diseases. This review covers compounds from herbal plants that were traditionally used for the treatment of life-threatening diseases. Furthermore, the structural elements responsible for their activities and the mechanisms of action of these natural products (such as flavonoids, peptides, polysaccharides) are also discussed. Finally, the status of the real utility of natural product based alternative therapies is highlighted and the future challenges to maximise their use are pointed out.
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