Culinary herbs and spices are widely used as a traditional medicine in the treatment of diabetes and its complications, and there are several scientific studies in the literature supporting the use of these medicinal plants. However, there is often a lack of knowledge on the bioactive compounds of these herbs and spices and their mechanisms of action. The aim of this study was to use inverse virtual screening to provide insights into the bioactive compounds of common herbs and spices, and their potential molecular mechanisms of action in the treatment of diabetes. In this study, a library of over 2300 compounds derived from 30 common herbs and spices were screened in silico with the DIA-DB web server against 18 known diabetes drug targets. Over 900 compounds from the herbs and spices library were observed to have potential anti-diabetic activity and liquorice, hops, fennel, rosemary, and fenugreek were observed to be particularly enriched with potential anti-diabetic compounds. A large percentage of the compounds were observed to be potential polypharmacological agents regulating three or more anti-diabetic drug targets and included compounds such as achillin B from yarrow, asparasaponin I from fenugreek, bisdemethoxycurcumin from turmeric, carlinoside from lemongrass, cinnamtannin B1 from cinnamon, crocin from saffron and glabridin from liquorice. The major targets identified for the herbs and spices compounds were dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP4), intestinal maltase-glucoamylase (MGAM), liver receptor homolog-1 (NR5A2), pancreatic alpha-amylase (AM2A), peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha (PPARA), protein tyrosine phosphatase non-receptor type 9 (PTPN9), and retinol binding protein-4 (RBP4) with over 250 compounds observed to be potential inhibitors of these particular protein targets. Only bay leaves, liquorice and thyme were found to contain compounds that could potentially regulate all 18 protein targets followed by black pepper, cumin, dill, hops and marjoram with 17 protein targets. In most cases more than one compound within a given plant could potentially regulate a particular protein target. It was observed that through this multi-compound-multi target regulation of these specific protein targets that the major anti-diabetic effects of reduced hyperglycemia and hyperlipidemia of the herbs and spices could be explained. The results of this study, taken together with the known scientific literature, indicated that the anti-diabetic potential of common culinary herbs and spices was the result of the collective action of more than one bioactive compound regulating and restoring several dysregulated and interconnected diabetic biological processes.
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