Sunday, 29 March 2015

Medicinal plants from the genus Acalypha (Euphorbiaceae)–A review of their ethnopharmacology and phytochemistry

Volume 159, 15 January 2015, Pages 137–157

Medicinal plants from the genus Acalypha (Euphorbiaceae)–A review of their ethnopharmacology and phytochemistry


Ethnopharmacological relevance

Acalypha is the fourth largest genus of the Euphorbiaceae family with approximately 450–570 species. Several Acalypha species are used as medicinal plants in Africa and in the Mascarene Islands. Almost every part of the plant including the leaves, stem and roots are used as traditional remedies to treat and manage a panoply of ailments. However, there is no updated compilation of traditionally important medicinal plants from the Acalypha genus. The present review therefore, endeavors to provide for the first time an updated compilation of documented ethnopharmacological information in relation to the ethnomedicinal, ethnoveterinary, zoopharmacognosy, phytochemistry and biological activities of medicinal plants from the Acalypha genus which can subsequently open new perspectives for further pharmacological research.

Materials and methods

A literature search was performed on Acalypha species using ethnobotanical text books and scientific databases such as Pubmed, Scopus, EBSCO, Google Scholar and other web sources such as records from PROTA, PROSEA, and Botanical Dermatology Database. The Plant List, International Plant Name index and Kew Botanical Garden Plant name databases were used to validate scientific names.

Results and discussion

Plants from Acalypha genus are traditionally used in the treatment and/or management of diverse ailments such as diabetes, jaundice, hypertension, fever, liver inflammation, schistosomiasis, dysentery, respiratory problems including bronchitis, asthma and pheumonia as well as skin conditions such as scabies, eczema and mycoses. Approximately 124 species were listed in ethnobotanical studies with some botanical description and others mentioned from different web sources. However, only 40 species have been included in the present review due to the unavailability of ethnopharmacological data on the remaining species. Among the 40 cited species, 30 were traditionally used for the treatment and/or management of approximately 70 human diseases or health conditions. Two species, Acalypha alnifolia and Acalypha fruticosa are used as insecticides and sand fly repellent respectively. Only 2 species (Acalypha fruticosa and Acalypha indica) are used in ethnoveterinary practice and have similar human and veterinary applications. In zoopharmacognosy, only Acalypha ornata has been mentioned. Natives from Africa, Central America, North America, Southern China, India, Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea and Mascarenes islands utilize Acalypha species as ethnomedicine. Traditionally used Acalypha species have been reported to possess at least one of the following biological activities: antimicrobial, anti-diabetic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, larvidal, pupicidal, hepatoprotective, anticancer, leishmanicidal, antihyperglycemic, antihypertensive, anti-venom, analgesic, anthelmintic, antiemetic, laxative, expectorant, diuretic, post-coital antifertility effects and wound healing. A total of 167 compounds have been identified from 19 species, with 16 from eight species were reported to be bioactive.


The present review represents 32.3% of species from the Acalypha genus and can be considered as the first compilation of ethnopharmacologically useful plants from this genus. There is a great potential to discover new biologically active phytochemicals from the Acalypha genus because only few species have been studied comprehensively. Therefore, the clinical evaluation of species from this genus is warranted in future studies to confirm the ethnomedicinal claims and for the safety approval of therapeutic applications.

Graphical abstract

Full-size image (19 K)


  • PROTA, plant resources of tropical Africa;
  • PROSEA, plant resources of south-east Asia;
  • IPNI, International Plant Name index;
  • L, leaves;
  • LS, leafy stem;
  • T, twigs;
  • RB, root bark;
  • R, roots;
  • F, flower;
  • SB, stem bark;
  • AP, aerial part;
  • WP, whole plant;
  • B, bark;
  • S, seed;
  • St, stem;
  • F, fraction;
  • EA, ethyl acetate;
  • HE, hexane extract;
  • ME, methanolic extract;
  • CE, chloroform extract;
  • AE, aqueous extract;
  • EE, ethanolic extract;
  • SWE, sterilized water extract;
  • UWE, unsterilized water extract;
  • HWE, hot water extract;
  • PE, petroleum ether;
  • AA, ascorbic acid;
  • EO, essential oil;
  • LA, least active;
  • A, active;
  • NA, not active;
  • NI, not indicated;
  • PA, Pseudomonas aeruginosa;
  • EC, Escherichia coli;
  • SA, Staphylococcus aureus;
  • ST, Salmonella typhii;
  • SE, Staphylococcus epidermis;
  • VC, Vibrio cholera;
  • KP, Klebsiella pneumonia;
  • PM, Proteus mirabilis;
  • PV, Proteus vulgaris;
  • BS, Bacillus subtilis;
  • SP, Streptococcus pneumonia;
  • FS, Fusarium solani;
  • MF, Micrococcus flavus;
  • M-TCM, MeOH–CHCl3;
  • CF, chloroform fraction;
  • DPPH, di(phenyl)-(2,4,6-trinitrophenyl)iminoazanium;
  • FRAP, ferric reducing ability of plasma;
  • ABTS, 2,2′-azino-bis(3-ethylbenzthiazoline-6-sulfonic acid;
  • MIC, minimum inhibitory concentration;
  • GC–MS, gas-chromatography-mass spectroscopy;
  • LDH, lactate dehydrogenase;
  • LC50, lethal concentration 50;
  • MTT, 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide

Chemical compounds studied in this article

  • Cyanoacetylurea (PubChem CID: 74055);
  • phenol (PubChem CID: 996);
  • 2-acetylfuran (Pubchem CID: 14505);
  • myo-inositol (PubChem CID: 892);
  • β-sitosterol (PubChem CID: 222284);
  • daucosterol (PubChem CID: 5742590);
  • emodin (PubChem CID: 3220);
  • loliolide (PubChem CID: 100332);
  • nicotinic acid (PubChem CID: 938);
  • chrysophanic acid (PubChem CID: 10208);
  • rutin (PubChem CID: 5280805);
  • physcione (PubChem CID: 10639);
  • butanedioic acid (PubChem CID: 1110);
  • 1,2-benzenedicarboxylic acid (PubChem CID: 1017);
  • oleanolic acid (PubChem CID: 1017);
  • spinasterol (PubChem CID: 5281331);
  • ursolic acid (PubChem CID: 64945);
  • squalene (PubChem CID: 638072);
  • n-hexadecanoic acid (PubChem CID: 985);
  • eicosyltrichlorosilane (PubChem CID: 87771);
  • quercetin 7-rutinoside (PubChem CID: 44259247);
  • triacetonamine (PubChem CID: 13220);
  • octadecanal (PubChem CID: 12533);
  • quebrachitol (PubChem CID: 230881);
  • phytol (PubChem CID: 5280435);
  • vitamin E (PubChem CID: 2116);
  • 2-hexenal (PubChem CID: 5281168);
  • methyl tigate (PubChem CID: 5323652);
  • propyl butyrate (PubChem CID: 7770);
  • fenchene (PubChem CID: 28930);
  • terpineol (PubChem CID: 17100);
  • Z-ocimenone (PubChem CID: 6428432);
  • 4-cresyl acetate (PubChem CID: 8797);
  • eugenol (PubChem CID: 3314);
  • perilla alcohol (PubChem CID: 10819);
  • isopulegyl acetate (PubChem CID: 494311);
  • linalyl acetate (PubChem CID: 8294);
  • carvyl acetate (PubChem CID: 7335);
  • α-copaene (PubChem CID: 25245021);
  • α-ylangene (PubChem CID: 25243882);
  • nonyl acetate (PubChem CID: 8918);
  • isobutyl salicylate (PubChem CID: 6873);
  • caryophyllene (PubChem CID: 5281515);
  • longifolene (PubChem CID: 289151);
  • β-humulene (PubChem CID: 5318102);
  • cinnamyl acetate (PubChem CID: 5282110);
  • ethyl vanillin (PubChem CID: 8467);
  • geranyl acetate (PubChem CID: 1549026);
  • furfuryl heptanoate (PubChem CID: 557223);
  • γ-Gurjunene (PubChem CID: 50986224);
  • viridiflorene (PubChem CID: 10910653);
  • β-selinene (PubChem CID: 442393);
  • germacrene B (PubChem CID: 5281519);
  • cuparene (PubChem CID: 86895);
  • 6-methyl-α-ionone (PubChem CID: 5371002);
  • 2-hexyne (PubChem CID: 33629);
  • β-sesquiphellandrene (PubChem CID: 12315492);
  • myristin (PubChem CID: 4276);
  • trans-γ-bisabolene (PubChem CID: 6428434);
  • elemicin (PubChem CID: 10248);
  • ledol (PubChem CID: 92812);
  • cis-3-hexenyl benzoate (PubChem CID: 5367706);
  • cis-nerolidol (PubChem CID: 5320128);
  • γ-eudesmol (PubChem CID: 6432005);
  • apiole PubChem CID: 10659);
  • oplopanone (PubChem CID: 539857);
  • 2-isopropyl-5-methylphenol (PubChem CID: 6989);
  • α-pinene (PubChem CID: 6654);
  • neophytadiene (PubChem CID: 10446);
  • 3,4,5-trihydroxybenzoic acid (PubChem CID: 370);
  • 3-carene (PubChem CID: 26049);
  • corilagin (PubChem CID: 73568)


  • Acalypha;
  • Euphorbiaceae;
  • Medicinal plants;
  • Ethnopharmacological uses;
  • Phytochemicals

Corresponding author. Tel.: +230 4037578; fax: +230 4656928.