Ethnobotany, phytochemistry and pharmacology of Stephania rotunda Lour

J Ethnopharmacol. 2014 Jul 3;154(3):537-63. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2014.04.024. Epub 2014 Apr 25.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Stephania rotunda Lour. (Menispermaceae) is an important traditional medicinal plant that is grown in Southeast Asia. The stems, leaves, and tubers have been used in the Cambodian, Lao, Indian and Vietnamese folk medicine systems for years to treat a wide range of ailments, including asthma, headache, fever, and diarrhoea.

Aim of the review: To provide an up-to-date, comprehensive overview and analysis of the ethnobotany, phytochemistry, and pharmacology of Stephania rotunda for its potential benefits in human health, as well as to assess the scientific evidence of traditional use and provide a basis for future research directions.

Material and methods: Peer-reviewed articles on Stephania rotunda were acquired via an electronic search of the major scientific databases (Pubmed, Google Scholar, and ScienceDirect). Data were collected from scientific journals, theses, and books.

Results: The traditional uses of Stephania rotunda were recorded in countries throughout Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and India). Different parts of Stephania rotunda were used in traditional medicine to treat about twenty health disorders. Phytochemical analyses identified forty alkaloids. The roots primarily contain l-tetrahydropalmatine (l-THP), whereas the tubers contain cepharanthine and xylopinine. Furthermore, the chemical composition differs from one region to another and according to the harvest period. The alkaloids exhibited approximately ten different pharmacological activities. The main pharmacological activities of Stephania rotunda alkaloids are antiplasmodial, anticancer, and immunomodulatory effects. Sinomenine, cepharanthine, and l-stepholidine are the most promising components and have been tested in humans. The pharmacokinetic parameters have been studied for seven compounds, including the three most promising compounds. The toxicity has been evaluated for liriodenine, roemerine, cycleanine, l-tetrahydropalmatine, and oxostephanine.

Conclusion: Stephania rotunda is traditionally used for the treatment of a wide range of ailments. Pharmacological investigations have validated different uses of Stephania rotunda in folk medicine. The present review highlights the three most promising compounds of Stephania rotunda, which could constitute potential leads in various medicinal fields, including malaria and cancer.

Keywords: 2-norcepharanthine (PubChem CID: 636067); Alkaloids; Antimalarial activity; Coclaurine (PubChem CID: 160487); Menispermaceae; Phytochemistry; Stephania rotunda; Traditional medicine; and rotundine (PubChem CID: 72301).; cepharanoline (PubChem CID: 5315779); cepharanthine (PubChem CID: 10206); columbamine (PubChem CID: 72310); corydalmine (PubChem CID: 161665); cycleanine (PubChem CID: 121313); dehydrocorydalmine (PubChem CID: 3083983); dehydroroemerine (PubChem CID: 161899); fangchinoline (PubChem CID: 73481); isocorydine (PubChem CID: 10143); jatrorrhizine (PubChem CID: 72323); l-tetrahydropalmatine; liriodenine (PubChem CID: 10144); palmatine (PubChem CID: 19009); pseudopalmatine (PubChem CID: 644002); roemerine (PubChem CID: 235224); sinomenine (PubChem CID: 5459308); stephanine (PubChem CID: 160501); stepharanine (PubChem CID: 10358881); stepholidine (PubChem CID: 6917970); thalifoline (PubChem CID: 89048); xylopinine (PubChem CID: 10653).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alkaloids / chemistry
  • Alkaloids / isolation & purification
  • Alkaloids / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Ethnobotany
  • Humans
  • Menispermaceae / chemistry*
  • Phytochemicals / chemistry
  • Phytochemicals / isolation & purification
  • Phytochemicals / pharmacology*
  • Plants, Medicinal / chemistry*


  • Alkaloids
  • Phytochemicals