Atractylis gummifera L. poisoning: an ethnopharmacological review

J Ethnopharmacol. 2005 Feb 28;97(2):175-81. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2004.11.025. Epub 2005 Jan 13.


Atractylis gummifera L. (Asteraceae) is a thistle located in the Mediterranean regions. Despite the plant's well-known toxicity, its ingestion continues to be a common cause of poisoning. The toxicity of Atractylis gummifera resides in atractyloside and carboxyatractyloside, two diterpenoid glucosides capable of inhibiting mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation. Both constituents interact with a mitochondrial protein, the adenine nucleotide translocator, responsible for the ATP/ADP antiport and involved in mitochondrial membrane permeabilization. Poisoned patients manifest characteristic symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, epigastric and abdominal pain, diarrhoea, anxiety, headache and convulsions, often followed by coma. No specific pharmacological treatment for Atractylis gummifera intoxication is yet available and all the current therapeutic approaches are only symptomatic. In vitro experiments showed that some compounds such as verapamil, or dithiothreitol could protect against the toxic effects of atractyloside, but only if administered before atractyloside exposure. New therapeutic approaches could come from immunotherapy research: some studies have already tried to produce polyclonal Fab fragments against the toxic components of Atractylis gummifera.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Atractylis* / chemistry
  • Atractylis* / poisoning
  • Atractyloside* / analogs & derivatives*
  • Atractyloside* / chemistry
  • Atractyloside* / isolation & purification
  • Atractyloside* / toxicity
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Enzyme Inhibitors* / chemistry
  • Enzyme Inhibitors* / isolation & purification
  • Enzyme Inhibitors* / toxicity
  • Ethnopharmacology
  • Humans
  • Mediterranean Region
  • Poisoning* / mortality
  • Poisoning* / physiopathology
  • Poisoning* / therapy


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Atractyloside
  • carboxyatractyloside