Autoimmune diseases are the third largest category of illness in the industrialized world, following cardiovascular diseases and cancers. Among them, type 1 diabetes, also named autoimmune diabetes, afflicts 10 million people worldwide. This disease is caused by autoimmunity-mediated destruction of pancreatic β-cells, leading to insulin deficiency, hyperglycemia and complications. Currently, there is no cure for type 1 diabetes. Insulin injection is the only medication; however, it accompanies serious medical complications. Current strategies to cure type 1 diabetes include immunotherapy, replacement therapy, and combination therapy. Despite recent advances in anti-diabetic strategies, no strategy is clinically successful. How to cure type 1 diabetes without undesirable side effects still remains a formidable challenge in drug research and development. Plants provide an extraordinary source of natural medicines for different diseases. Moreover, secondary metabolites of plant origin serve as an invaluable chemical library for drug discovery and current medicinal chemistry in the pharmaceutical industry. Over the past 25 years, 50% of prescription drugs have been developed from natural products and their derivatives. In this article, we review more than 20 plant compounds and extracts reported in the literature to prevent and treat type-1 diabetes. Emphasis is placed on their chemistry and biology in terms of regulation of immune cells and pancreatic β-cells. We summarize recent progress in understanding the biological actions, mechanisms and therapeutic potential of the compounds and extracts of plant origin in type 1 diabetes. New views on phytocompound-based strategies for prevention and treatment of type 1 diabetes are also discussed
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