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Phytochemistry and Pharmacology of the Genus Zanthoxylum (Rutaceae): A Review

[ Vol. 11 , Issue. 1 ]


Japheth O. Ombito*   Pages 21 - 43 ( 23 )


Background: The genus Zanthoxylum (Rutaceae) represents an interesting source of bioactive compounds, and more than 220 accepted species of this genus are distributed in the warm temperate and subtropical regions of the world. Different plant parts of Zanthoxylum species have been used traditionally as medicines for various diseases affecting both humans and animals. Based on traditional knowledge, several phytochemical and pharmacological studies have been conducted.

Objective: This review aims to provide up-to-date information about the phytochemistry and pharmacology of the genus Zanthoxylum, covering literature published from January 2012 to mid-2019.

Methods: The traditional medicinal uses, phytochemical and pharmacological data about Zanthoxylum species were searched and obtained from scientific databases such as Google Scholar, PubMed, SciFinder and Web of Science. Information about the accepted number of Zanthoxylum species was obtained from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility and Plants of the World online databases.

Results: The genus Zanthoxylum (Rutaceae) is a rich source of structurally diverse secondary metabolites with promising pharmacological activities. Approximately 126 new secondary metabolites, including alkaloids, amides, lignans and neolignans, coumarins, peptides, terpenoids, and flavonoids have been isolated and identified from different Zanthoxylum species. The numerous studies have shown that compounds isolated from the genus Zanthoxylum exhibit pharmacological activities, including anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, cytotoxic, larvicidal, antioxidant, anticancer/ antiproliferative, and antimycobacterial activities.

Conclusion: Zanthoxylum genus, a rich source of alkaloids, amides, lignans and neolignans, coumarins, peptides, terpenoids, and flavonoids, is an interesting genus with multiple pharmacological activities. This review summarises phytochemical and pharmacological studies conducted so far. The data collected from the available literature shows that plants of the genus Zanthoxylum have great pharmacological potential. However, the genus is not fully explored and many gaps in the knowledge still exist.


Zanthoxylum, rutaceae, secondary metabolite, phytochemistry, pharmacology, flavonoids.


Department of Chemistry, University of Botswana, Private Bag 0022, Gaborone

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