Natural alkaloids: basic aspects, biological roles, and future perspectives

Chin J Nat Med. 2014 Jun;12(6):401-6. doi: 10.1016/S1875-5364(14)60063-7.


Natural products have gained popularity worldwide for promoting healthcare, as well as disease prevention. Alkaloids are important chemical compounds that serve as a rich reservoir for drug discovery. Several alkaloids isolated from natural herbs exhibit antiproliferation, antibacterial, antiviral, insecticidal, and antimetastatic effects on various types of cancers both in vitro and in vivo. This paper focuses on the naturally-derived alkaloids such as berberine, matrine, piperine, fritillarine, and rhynchophylline, etc., and summarizes the action mechanisms of these compounds. Based on the information in the literature that is summarized in this paper, the use of alkaloids as drugs is very promising, but more research and clinical trials are necessary before final recommendations on specific alkaloids can be made. Following this, it is hoped that as a result of this review, there will be a greater awareness of the excellent promise that natural alkaloids show for use in the therapy of diseases.

Keywords: Alkaloids; Biological roles; Health benefits; Natural product.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alkaloids / pharmacology*
  • Alkaloids / therapeutic use
  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Biological Products / pharmacology*
  • Biological Products / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use
  • Plants / chemistry
  • Porifera / chemistry


  • Alkaloids
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Biological Products
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Plant Extracts