Ursolic Acid

Ursolic acid is a phytochemical (biologically active compound) present in many plants, fruits and vegetables. It is well known for its presence in apple peels.

Phytochemicals are non-nutritive plant chemicals that possess protective properties. They are considered non-essential nutrients, meaning they are not needed by the human body for sustaining life. Plants produce these phytochemicals to shield themselves from insects and predators, but recent studies have shown that they can also protect humans against diseases. There are more than thousand known phytochemicals. Some of the well-known phytochemicals are lycopene in tomatoes, flavanoids in fruits and isoflavones in soy.

Ursolic acid is pharmacologically safe. Extensive studies have discovered ursolic acid's exciting possibilities. Its anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties make it an ideal medication to treat burns, inhibit candida growth and prevent dental carries.

Ursolic acid has recently become very popular among athletes and bodybuilders because of studies indicating that it improves muscle growth, decreases muscle wasting, and boost bone formation activity.

The medical community is very excited about research showing ursolic acid’s chemopreventative properties. According to studies, ursolic acid suppresses tumor formation and growth factor expression; impedes tumor growth; inhibits angiogenesis; induces apoptosis; impedes signaling and activation pathways; and induces tumor cell differentiation. Additionally, ursolic acid has been shown to reduce chemoresistance and radioresistance in people undergoing chemotherapy or other cancer treatment.


Health benefits of ursolic acid

Increases skeletal muscle and decreases brown fat

Activity of skeletal muscle Akt stimulates muscle growth and provides obesity resistance, glucose intolerance and fatty liver disease. In a mouse model study published on the journal PLOS one, the researchers found that ursolic acid raises activity of skeletal muscle Akt and stimulates muscle growth on non-obese mice. The research team wanted to see if ursolic acid increased skeletal muscle Akt activity in mice with diet-induced obesity. The researchers examined the mice that consumed a high fat diet that with or without ursolic acid. They found that ursolic acid increased skeletal muscle mass, slow and fast muscle fiber size, exercise capacity and grip strength. An interesting note, ursolic acid also inflated brown fat. Brown fat is a tissue that shares its origins with skeletal muscle. On par with swelled brown fat and skeletal muscle, ursolic acid boosted energy expenditure, leading to decreased obesity, enhanced glucose tolerance and reduced hepatic steatosis.

In another study, 16 male participants were put on regular weight training routines for eight weeks. The men were randomly assigned to group and were given Ursolic acid. The participants who received Ursolic Acid displayed remarkable increase in muscle power, IGF-1 and Irisin hormones (responsible for increasing muscle growth), and reduction in body fat percentage.

These findings indicate that ursolic acid may boost skeletal muscle strength


Promotes fat loss and increases energy expenditure

In a study investigating weight loss properties ursolic acid, test subjects were given Ursolic. The results showed that the participants had less abdominal fat, became leaner, and had lower levels of blood glucose, triglycerides and cholesterol. The researchers believe this is due to a significant reduction in ghrelin 4. Ghrelin, which is secreted in the stomach, has an appetite boosting and fat build-up effect, so less ghrelin is good for the body.

The participants also had a significant increase of a hormone called leptin. Fat cells themselves secrete leptin and is crucial for regulating energy expenditure. When there’s more leptin in the body, it signals the body to expend more energy.


Lowers blood sugar and cholesterol

A mechanism called glycogen synthesis is very important in regulating blood sugar. A study showed that ursolic acid stimulates glycogen synthesis in the liver.


Multi-drug resistance cancers

A study investigating ursolic acid and oleanolic acid’s tumor suppression and apoptosis inducing effects on multi-drug resistance cancer cells in vitro, showed that the proliferation-inhibiting and apoptosis-inducing effects of these components possess antitumor effects on cancer cells with multi-drug resistance, and the best effect is shown by UA on colon cancer cells.


Skin fibroblast cells

A study examining the usability of ursolic and oleanolic acid for quality control of natural products used in dermatocosmetology as well as of different other medicinal preparations, found that of these two compounds UA had a higher cytotoxic activity against HSF cells compared to oleanolic acid. According to the researchers, because of its non-toxic nature, ursolic acid may be used as a supplementary factor for skin disorders.


Antibiotic resistance

A study investigating antibiotic resistance effects of oleanolic acid and ursolic acid, among bacterial pathogens (Listeria monocytogenes, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus epidermidis  and Staphylococcus aureus), found that in some combinations, the tested compounds acted in harmony with lower the susceptibility of S. epidermidis, S. aureus and L. monocytogenes to oxacillin and ampicillin, but no synergy was observed for P. aeruginosa.


Lung health

Several studies have suggested that eating apples, including the skins, protects the lung and provides better lung function and reduced risk of respiratory illnesses including bronchitis, asthma, and emphysema. In fact, one study showed that eating apples helped lower the risk of asthma more than other fruits and vegetables combined.

Best way to enjoy an apple with its skin

Chop an apple, toss with some cinnamon and lemon juice. Bake the tossed apple in the oven or use microwave to warm it. Remove from oven and sprinkle with a mixture of almond butter and rolled oats.


Bladder cancer

A study investigating ursolic acid’s anti-tumor properties against bladder cancer, discovered that the ceramide level was elevated after UA treatment in T24 cells, and ursolic acid-induced activation of AMPK and T24 cell apoptosis were impeded by ceramide synthase inhibitor fumonism B1, and was improved by externally attaching cell permeable short-chain ceramide (C6), indicating that ceramide might serve as a crucial signal for AMPK activation.


Side Effects

Since ursolic acid is derived from plants and herbs and have been in use for thousands of years, it is believed that ursolic acid is safe and do not produce side effects. It has also been verified in scientific tests.


Natural food sources of ursolic acid

Best known for its presence in apple peels, ursolic acid can also be found in plants such as mirabilis, fruits such as apples, bilberries, cranberries, hawthorn, and prunes. It is also present in elder flower, lavender and herbs such as peppermint, rosemary, thyme, and oregano.




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