Monday, 27 April 2015

Warburgia: A comprehensive review of the botany, traditional uses and phytochemistry

Volume 165, 13 May 2015, Pages 260–285

Warburgia: A comprehensive review of the botany, traditional uses and phytochemistry


Ethnopharmacological relevance

The genus Warburgia (Canellaceae) is represented by several medicinal trees found exclusively on the African continent. Traditionally, extracts and products produced from Warburgia species are regarded as important natural African antibiotics and have been used extensively as part of traditional healing practices for the treatment of fungal, bacterial and protozoal infections in both humans and animals. We here aim to collate and review the fragmented information on the ethnobotany, phytochemistry and biological activities of ethnomedicinally important Warburgia species and present recommendations for future research.

Materials and methods

Peer-reviewed articles using “Warburgia” as search term (“all fields”) were retrieved from Scopus, ScienceDirect, SciFinder and Google Scholar with no specific time frame set for the search. In addition, various books were consulted that contained botanical and ethnopharmacological information.


The ethnopharmacology, phytochemistry and biological activity of Warburgia are reviewed. Most of the biological activities are attributed to the drimane sesquiterpenoids, including polygodial, warburganal, muzigadial, mukaadial and ugandensial, flavonoids and miscellaneous compounds present in the various species. In addition to anti-infective properties, Warburgia extracts are also used to treat a wide range of ailments, including stomach aches, fever and headaches, which may also be a manifestation of infections. The need to record anecdotal evidence is emphasised and conservation efforts are highlighted to contribute to the protection and preservation of one of Africa׳s most coveted botanical resources.

Graphical abstract

Full-size image (33 K)


  • Biological activity;
  • Warburgia;
  • Ethnobotany;
  • Antimicrobial drimane sesquiterpernoids;
  • Phytochemistry

Corresponding author. Tel.: +27 12 382 6360; fax: +27 12 382 6243.