Neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease (PD), Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Huntington’s disease (HD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are incurable pathologies with huge social and economic impacts closely related to the increasing of life expectancy in modern times. Although the clinical and neuropathological aspects of these debilitating disorders are distinct, they have a unified feature that is the characteristic pattern of neurodegeneration in anatomically or functionally related regions. All of them remain uncured and presently available treatments are only symptomatic and do not alter the course or progression of the underlying diseases. In this context, the search for new effective chemical entities, capable to act in diverse biochemical targets, with new mechanisms of action and low toxicity stands as a challenge to research groups and Pharmaceutical Industry. This scenery has been promising to the reemerging of modern natural products chemistry to provide active, sophisticated and complex new lead molecules to drug discovery and development. In this publication, we discuss some of the main contributions of the natural products chemistry including more than thirty plant species and the main pharmacological advances for the discovery of active constituents in plants, herbs and extracts prescribed by Traditional Medicine practices to treat senile neurodegenerative disorders, especially for AD and PD, in the period after the 2000s. Many of the recent reported data are resultant of studies carried out during the 90s decade, and the most important contributions are also cited, as well as the main advances in the pharmacological basis to understand the mechanisms of action and to explain the effects of some of these active compounds in the improvement on memory and cognition, in neurovascular function, and as neuroprotective agents.
Keywords: Neurodegenerative disorders, biodiversity, natural products, Alzheimer, Parkinson, drug discovery, medicinal chemistry.