What is Betulinic Acid? A Brief Overview of This Versatile Compound
Betulinic acid (Betulin acid) is a naturally occurring bioactive compound found in many plants, but most commonly in the bark of the white birch tree.
Over the last 15-or-so years, there’s been a growing interest in Betulinic acid, with researchers finding a wide range of positive applications for this versatile substance.
A wide range of benefits…
Betulinic acid has a wide range of benefits; including skin disease treatment and overall recovery, as well as the prevention of skin aging. Research also shows improved metabolic responses from the body – lowered cholesterol, higher insulin sensitivity and general dietary benefits that may promote healthy body weight regulation.
Promising anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties
Apart from direct benefits, betulinic acid is also widely studied as an anticancer agent. Research has also exhibited its other biological activities – antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and many others.
Betulinic acid supplements in cosmetics
It has been proven that betulinic acid can reduce inflammation and immunostimulatory responses, making it a useful ingredient in cosmetic products. Exhibiting antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal effects, betulinic acid derivatives are also useful for the treatment and prevention of problems caused by microorganisms. In cases of psoriasis and dermatitis, the admission of betulinic acid can relieve debilitating symptoms and improve overall healing.
Betulinic acid for diabetes and cardiovascular disease
In lab animal tests, betulinic acid showed positive dietary effects: Oral admission of betulinic acid was able to significantly reverse the weight gain caused by high-fructose diets. Results showed that levels of insulin, nectin and adiponectin were close to those before admission of a high sugar diet. In addition, lipid parameters returned to normal, showing promising potential for the prevention of atherosclerosis, cardiac events and cardiovascular diseases.
Betulinic acid also exhibited positive effects in lab animals with induced type-2 diabetes, proving its hypoglycemic effects (the reduction of blood sugar).
Betulinic acid’s anticancer and antiviral activity
The first reports of betulinic acid’s anticancer activity date back to 1995, where they demonstrated positive results against human melanoma cells. The mechanism of anti-tumour activity of betulinic acid is fairly well studied, and is believed to proceed via three possible pathways:
- Anti-proliferative activity inhibiting topoisomerases I and II in tumour cells.
- Inducing mitochondrial apoptosis pathways in cancer cells.
- Inhibiting angiogenesis in tumour cells.
Out of these pathways, the most important is betulinic acid’s ability to induce the mitochondrial pathway of apoptosis – programmed cell death. Currently, many anticancer therapy agents are directly aimed at these processes, therefore, it’s desirable for betulinic acid to follow the same steps. It is believed that betulinic acid can induce the formation of free radicals in various cancer cell lines, which in turn promotes the permeability of the outer mitochondrial membranes.
Betulinic acid also inhibits topoisomerases I – preventing the formation of DNA-replicating enzyme complexes – and topoisomerase II – inhibiting DNA-repairing processes. Both of these processes prevent new tumour cell maturation in damaged tissue, reducing the spread of the cancer.
Betulinic acid also inhibits aminopeptidase-N, the main enzyme responsible for angiogenesis, (the formation of new blood vessels from pre-existing vessels) helping to stop the spread of tissue damage.
Synergistic enhancement of anti-cancer drugs
There are several studies showing exceptional activity from betulinic acid in vitro against several types of cancer cell lines. Betulinic acid clinical trials have been conducted where the compound has been used as an additive to other anticancer drugs, inducing many of the effects described previously, as well as creating synergetic effects that enhanced the overall effectiveness of the main drug.
Betulinic acid in HIV treatment
In studies for anti-HIV drugs, the bioactive extracts derived from Syzygium claviflorum, the active compound was indeed found to be betulinic acid. Although betulinic acid showed activity against HIV, further studies in this field were carried out with semi-synthetic derivatives of betulinic acid, such as Bevirimat.
Synthetic Betulinic Acid
Betulinic acid is also used as a precursor for new semi-synthetic derivative synthesis. With a few chemical modifications, betulinic acid can be transformed into “click-ready” (for CuAAC) substrates for easy and fast active compound library diversification. Such combinations allow for the creation of hybrid systems – compounds where two or more bioactive motifs are combined together by linker. You can explore some of these compounds here.
The Preparation of betulinic acid
Betulinic acid solubility and bioavailability is very low. Because of the low amounts yielded from natural birch bark, betulinic acid is often synthesized chemically from much more widely available betulin.
The betulinic acid that we offer at clickbetulin.com is from nature by direct extraction. For more information and to buy our products online, please head over to our online store.