Siu Kuin Wong1, Yau Yan Lim1 and Eric WC Chan2*
1School of Science, Monash University Sunway Campus, Bandar Sunway, 46150 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia.
2Faculty of Applied Sciences, UCSI University, 56000 Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The family Apocynaceae consists of tropical trees, shrubs and vines. Characteristic features of the family are that almost all species produce milky sap. Leaves are simple, opposite or whorled; flowers are large, colourful and slightly fragrant with five contorted lobes; and fruits are in pairs. With the inclusion of species of Asclepiadaceae, the family has now enlarged from two to five sub-families. The expanded family now comprises more than 150 genera and 2000 species. In traditional medicine, Apocynaceae species are used to treat gastrointestinal ailments, fever, malaria, pain and diabetes, including skin and ecto-parasitic diseases. Some are important timber species while many are planted as ornamentals. Non-medicinal uses include food, poisons, fodder, wood, ornamentals, dye and perfume. Species of Apocynaceae have been reported to possess anticancer and antimalarial properties. Species having cytotoxic activity include those of Allamanda, Alstonia, Calotropis, Catharanthus, Cerbera, Nerium, Plumeria, Tabernaemontana and Vallaris. Species of Alstonia, Calotropis, Dyera, Kopsia and Vallaris are also known to have antimalarial properties. Prompted by their anticancer and antimalarial properties; the botany, uses, phytochemistry and pharmacology of ten selected Apocynaceae species (Allamanda cathartica, Alstonia angustiloba, Calotropis gigantea, Catharanthus roseus, Cerbera odollam, Dyera costulata, Kopsia fruticosa, Nerium oleander, Plumeria obtusa and Vallaris glabra) belonging to ten genera are reviewed.
Keywords: Anticancer, antimalarial, alkaloids, cardenolides, triterpenoids.