The incidence of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is rapidly rising throughout the world. Although tremendous efforts have been made, limited therapeutics are available for IBD management. Natural active small molecules (NASMs), which are a gift of nature to humanity, have been widely used in the prevention and alleviation of IBD; they have numerous advantageous features, including excellent biocompatibility, pharmacological activity, and mass production potential. Oral route is the most common and acceptable approach for drug administration, but the clinical application of NASMs in IBD treatment via oral route has been seriously restricted by their inherent limitations such as their high hydrophobicity, instability, and poor bioavailability. With the development of nanotechnology, polymeric nanoparticles (NPs) have provided a promising platform that can efficiently encapsulate versatile NASMs, overcome multiple drug delivery barriers, and orally deliver the loaded NASMs to targeted tissues or cells while enhancing their stability and bioavailability. Thus, NPs can enhance the preventive and therapeutic effects of NASMs against IBD. Herein, we summarize the recent knowledge about polymeric matrix-based carriers, targeting ligands for drug delivery, and NASMs. We also discuss the current challenges and future developmental directions.Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier B.V.
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