Ferulic acid (FA) belongs to the family of phenolic acids and is very abundant in fruits and vegetables. Over the past years, several studies have shown that FA acts as a potent antioxidant by scavenging free radicals and enhancing the cell stress response through the up-regulation of cytoprotective systems, e.g. heme oxygenase-1, heat shock protein 70, extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 and the proto-oncogene Akt. Furthermore, FA was shown to inhibit the expression and/or activity of cytotoxic enzymes, including inducible nitric oxide synthase, caspases and cyclooxygenase-2. Based on this evidence, FA has been proposed as a potential treatment for many disorders including Alzheimer's disease, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus and skin disease. However, despite the great abundance of preclinical research, only a few studies were carried out in humans, the majority of which used foods containing FA, and therefore the clinical efficacy of this mode of administration needs to be further documented. New efforts and resources are needed in clinical research for the complete evaluation of FA therapeutic potential in chronic diseases. Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.