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Hypotensive action of naturally occurring diterpenes: A therapeutic promise for the treatment of hypertension

Plants have always been an exemplary source of drugs and many of the currently available medicines have been directly or indirectly derived from them. For this reason, the research, development and use of natural products as therapeutic agents, especially those derived from plants, have been increasing in recent years. A great deal of attention has focused on the naturally occurring antispasmodic phytochemicals as potential drugs for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases. Arterial hypertension is a common and progressive disorder that poses a major risk for cardiovascular and renal diseases. Recent data have revealed that the global burden of hypertension is an important and increasing public health problem worldwide and that the level of awareness, treatment and control of hypertension varies considerably among countries. The research on naturally occurring blood pressure-lowering agents is rapidly expanding due to the high potential of such molecules as new antihypertensive drugs.Recently, a great number of plant-derived substances, such as diterpenoids, have been evaluated as possible antihypertensive agents. Naturally occurring diterpenes such as forskolin and stevioside, exhibit vasorelaxant action and inhibit vascular contractility by different mechanisms of action. In this review we will discuss the mechanisms underlying the hypotensive action displayed by diterpenes and their potential use in human hypertension. We will also discuss the use of these compounds in the treatment of glaucoma, which is characterized by increased intraocular pressure (IOP).