A large range of chronic and degenerative diseases can be prevented through the use of food products and food bioactives. This study reports the health benefits and biological activities of the Urtica dioica (U. dioica) edible plant, with particular focus on its cancer chemopreventive potential. Numerous studies have attempted to investigate the most efficient anti-cancer therapy with few side effects and high toxicity on cancer cells to overcome the chemoresistance of cancer cells and the adverse effects of current therapies. In this regard, natural products from edible plants have been assessed as sources of anti-cancer agents. In this article, we review current knowledge from studies that have examined the cytotoxic, anti-tumor and anti-metastatic effects of U. dioica plant on several human cancers. Special attention has been dedicated to the treatment of breast cancer, the most prevalent cancer among women and one of the main causes of death worldwide. The anti-proliferative and apoptotic effects of U. dioica have been demonstrated on different human cancers, investigating the properties of U. dioica at cellular and molecular levels. The potent cytotoxicity and anti-cancer activity of the U. dioica extracts are due to its bioactive natural products content, including polyphenols which reportedly possess anti-oxidant, anti-mutagenic and anti-proliferative properties. The efficacy of this edible plant to prevent or mitigate human cancers has been demonstrated in laboratory conditions as well as in experimental animal models, paving the way to the development of nutraceuticals for new anti-cancer therapies.
Keywords: Urtica dioica; breast cancer; cancer therapy; food bioactives; natural products bioactivity; nutraceuticals.