Pueraria tuberosa (Willd.) DC is a perennial herb commonly known as 'vidarikanda', distributed throughout south east Asia. The plant's tuber is widely used in ethanomedicine as well as in traditional systems of medicine, particularly in ayurveda. It has been used in various ayurvedic formulations as restorative tonic, antiaging, spermatogenic and immune booster and has been recommended for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases, hepatosplenomegaly, fertility disorders, menopausal syndrome, sexual debility and spermatorrhoea. Numerous bioactive phytochemicals, mostly isoflavonoids such as puerarin, genistein, daidzein, tuberosin and so on have been identified in the tuber. In vivo and in vitro studies have provided the support against traditional demands of the tuber as spermatogenic, immune booster, aphrodisiac, anti-inflammatory, cardiotonic and brain tonic. However, further studies are required to define the active phytochemical compositions and to validate its clinical utilisation in the herbal formulations for human uses. This review provides an overview of traditional applications, current knowledge on the phytochemistry, pharmacology and toxicology of P. tuberosa. This review also provides plausible hypotheses about how various isoflavones particularly puerarin, genistein and daidzein, individually or collectively, may be responsible for the therapeutic potential against a wide range of ailments.
Keywords: Pueraria tuberosa; pharmacology and toxicity; phytochemicals; traditional use.