The increasing demand for natural products as an alternative therapy for chronic diseases has encouraged research into the pharmacological importance of bioactive compounds from plants. Recently, there has been a surge of interest in the therapeutic potential of oleanolic acid (OA) in the prevention and management of chronic diseases. Oleanolic acid is a pentacyclic triterpenoid widely found in plants, including fruits and vegetables with different techniques and chromatography platforms being employed in its extraction and isolation. Several studies have demonstrated the potential therapeutic effects of OA on different diseases and their symptoms. Furthermore, oleanolic acid also serves as a framework for the development of novel semi-synthetic triterpenoids that could prove vital in finding therapeutic modalities for various ailments. There are recent advances in the design and synthesis of chemical derivatives of OA to enhance its solubility, bioavailability and potency. Some of these derivatives have also been therapeutic candidates in a number of clinical trials. This review consolidates and expands on recent reports on the biological effects of oleanolic acid from different plant sources and its synthetic derivatives as well as their mechanisms of action in in vitro and in vivo study models. This review suggests that oleanolic acid and its derivatives are important candidates in the search for alternative therapy in the treatment and management of chronic diseases.
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