Phenylethanoid glycosides are naturally occurring water-soluble compounds with remarkable biological properties that are widely distributed in the plant kingdom. Verbascoside is a phenylethanoid glycoside that was first isolated from mullein but is also found in several other plant species. It has also been produced by in vitro plant culture systems, including genetically transformed roots (so-called 'hairy roots'). Verbascoside is hydrophilic in nature and possesses pharmacologically beneficial activities for human health, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antineoplastic properties in addition to numerous wound-healing and neuroprotective properties. Recent advances with regard to the distribution, (bio)synthesis and bioproduction of verbascoside are summarised in this review. We also discuss its prominent pharmacological properties and outline future perspectives for its potential application. (C) 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.