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Semwal, D., Semwal, R., Vermaak, I., Viljoen, A.M. 2014. From arrow poison to herbal medicine - The ethnobotanical, phytochemical and pharmacological significance of Cissampelos (Menispermaceae). Journal of Ethnopharmacology 155: 1011-1028.

Ethnopharmacological relevance: Cissampelosspecies have a rich history of traditional use, being used for both therapeutic and toxic properties. It is traditionally applied therapeutically in a diverse range of conditions and diseases including asthma, cough, fever, arthritis, obesity, dysentery, snakebite, jaundice and heart, blood pressure and skin-related problems. Conversely, it was traditionally included in preparations of curare applied as arrow poison during hunting to cause death of animals by asphyxiation.

Aim of the review: This review unites the ethnobotanical knowledge on Cissampelos with the phytochemistry and pharmacological activity which has been explored thus far. In addition, it identifies knowledge gaps and suggests further research opportunities.

Methods: The available electronic literature on the genus Cissampelos was collected using database searches including Scopus, Google Scholar, Pubmed and Web of Science, etc. The searches were limited to peer-reviewed English journals with the exception of books and a few articles in foreign languages which were included.

Results: The literature revealed that pharmacological activity including analgesic and antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, bronchodilator, immunomodulatory, memory-enhancing, antidepressant, neuroprotective, antimicrobial, antimalarial, antiparastici, anti-ulcer, anticancer, anti-oxidant, cardiovascular, muscle-relaxant, hepatoprotective, antidiabetic, antidiarrhoeal, antifertility, antivenom activity have been confirmed in vitro and/or in vivo for various Cissampelosspecies. Cissampelos pareira L. and C. sympodialis Eichl. are the most explored species of this genus and the smallest number of studies have been conducted on C. laxiflora Moldenke andC. tenuipes Engl. Many alkaloids isolated from Cissampelos such as warifteine, methylwarifteine, berberine, hayatin and hayatidin showed promising anti-allergic, immunosuppressive, antidepressant, anticancer, vasodilatory and muscle-relaxant activities.

Conclusion: The plants of this genus are used in traditional medicine for the treatment of various ailments. These plants are a rich source of bioactive bisbenzylisoquinoline and aporphine alkaloids together with other minor constituents. Although these plants are reputable and revered in various traditional medicine systems, many have not yet been screened chemically or pharmacologically and so there is a vast amount of research still to be conducted to validate their traditional use.