Medicinal plants of genus Curculigo: traditional uses and a phytochemical and ethnopharmacological review

J Ethnopharmacol. 2013 Jun 3;147(3):547-63. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2013.03.066. Epub 2013 Apr 3.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: In the genus Curculigo, Curculigo orchioides Gaertn, Curculigo capitulata (Lour) O. Ktze and Curculigo pilosa (Schumach. & Thonn.) Engl are often used in traditional medicine. Curculigo orchioides is used for the treatment of impotence, limb limpness, arthritis of the lumbar and knee joints, and watery diarrhea in traditional Chinese medicine, and also used as a potent immunomodulator and aphrodisiac in the Ayurvedic medical system. Curculigo capitulata is used for the treatment of consumptive cough, kidney asthenia, impotence and spermatorrhea, hemorrhoids, asthma, jaundice, diarrhea, colic and gonorrhea in traditional Chinese and India medicine, and to treat urinary tract infection, acute renal pelvis and nephritis, nephritis-edema, cystitis, nephrolithiasis, hypertension and rheumatic arthritis in traditional Dai medicine. Curculigo pilosa are applied to treat gastrointestinal and heart diseases in Africa.

Aim of the review: This review aims to exhibit up-to-date and comprehensive information about traditional uses, phytochemistry, pharmacology and toxicology of medicinal plants in the genus Curculigo, and has an insight into the opportunities for the future research and development of Curculigo plant.

Methods: A bibliographic investigation was performed by analyzing the information available on Curculigo plant from worldwide accepted scientific databases (Pubmed, Scopus and Web of Science, SciFinder, Google Scholar, Yahoo). Furthermore, information also was obtained from some local and foreign books on ethnobotany and ethnomedicines.

Results: Curculigo orchioides, Curculigo capitulata and Curculigo pilosa have been used as traditional medicine to treat kinds of diseases such as impotence, limb limpness, gastrointestinal and heart diseases, etc. Phytochemical investigation of eight species of the genus Curculigo has resulted in identification of more than 110 compounds. The content of curculigoside is used as an indicator to evaluate the quality of rhizome of Curculigo orchioides. The medicinal plants have showed a wide spectrum pharmacological activities, including adaptive, immunostimulatory, taste-modifying and sweet-tasting, antioxidant, mast cell stabilization, antihistaminic and antiasthmatic, hepatoprotective and neuroprotective activity. Toxicological test indicated that Curculigo orchioides at the dose of 120 g/kg after administrating rats for 180 days may cause injury of liver and kidney.

Conclusion: The medicinal plants of genus Curculigo have emerged as a good source of the traditional medicines. Some uses of these plants in the traditional medicines have been validated by pharmacological investigation. However, the mechanism of their actions should be further elucidated; the particular constituent responsible for toxicity should be isolated and identified, and the target tissue and mechanism of toxic ingredients also deserve to be further investigated; more reference substances should be prepared, and sophisticated analytical technologies should be developed to comprehensively assess the quality of Curculigo herbs. These investigations will be helpful for further utilization of the plants of genus Curculigo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Curculigo* / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Medicine, Traditional
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use
  • Plants, Medicinal


  • Plant Extracts