The Development of Toad Toxins as Potential Therapeutic Agents

Toxins (Basel). 2018 Aug 20;10(8):336. doi: 10.3390/toxins10080336.


Toxins from toads have long been known to contain rich chemicals with great pharmaceutical potential. Recent studies have shown more than 100 such chemical components, including peptides, steroids, indole alkaloids, bufogargarizanines, organic acids, and others, in the parotoid and skins gland secretions from different species of toads. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), processed toad toxins have been used for treating various diseases for hundreds of years. Modern studies, including both experimental and clinical trials, have also revealed the molecular mechanisms that support the development of these components into medicines for the treatment of inflammatory diseases and cancers. More recently, there have been studies that demonstrated the therapeutic potential of toxins from other species of toads, such as Australian cane toads. Previous reviews mostly focused on the pharmaceutical effects of the whole extracts from parotoid glands or skins of toads. However, to fully understand the molecular basis of toad toxins in their use for therapy, a comprehensive understanding of the individual compound contained in toad toxins is necessary; thus, this paper seeks to review the recent studies of some typical compounds frequently identified in toad secretions.

Keywords: Chansu; Huachansu; bufadienolides; cancer; cane toad; indolealkylamines; inflammation; obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD); toad toxins.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amines / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Bufanolides / pharmacology
  • Bufonidae*
  • Humans
  • Indoles / pharmacology
  • Toxins, Biological / pharmacology*


  • Amines
  • Bufanolides
  • Indoles
  • Toxins, Biological