The genus Viscum comprises approximately 100 species that are mainly distributed across Africa, Asia and Europe. The extracts and preparations of Viscum species are widely used as common complementary and alternative medicines in the treatment of rheumatism and cancer.
Aim of the review
This review aims to explore the medicinal properties of twelve species belonging to the genus Viscum for potential therapeutic applications.
Materials and methods
We collected online information (including PubMed, CNKI, Google Scholar, and Web of Science) from January 1915 to April 2021 and knowledge from classical books on Chinese herbal medicines available for 12 species of the genus Viscum, including Viscum coloratum (Kom.) Nakai, Viscum album L., Viscum articulatum Burm. f., Viscum liquidambaricola Hayata, Viscum ovalifolium DC., Viscum capitellatum Sm., Viscum cruciatum Sieber ex Boiss., Viscum nudum Danser, Viscum angulatum B.Heyne ex DC., Viscum tuberculatum A.Rich., Viscum multinerve Hayata, and Viscum diospyrosicola Hayata.
At least 250 different compounds have been reported across twelve Viscum species, including amino acid and peptides, alkaloids, phenolic acids, flavonoids, terpenoids, carbohydrates, fatty acids, lipids, and other types of compounds. In particular, for Viscum coloratum (Kom.) Nakai and Viscum album L., the plants, preparations, and bioactive components have been thoroughly reviewed. This has allowed to elucidate the role of active components, including lectins, viscotoxins, flavonoids, terpenoids, phenolic acids, and polysaccharides, in multiple bioactivities, such as anti-cancer, anti-rheumatism arthralgia, anti-inflammation, anti-cardiovascular diseases, enhancing immunity, and anti-chemotherapy side effects. We also evaluated quality control methods based on active compounds, in vivo exposure compounds, and discriminated chemical markers.
This is the first report to systematically review the pharmaceutical development history, chemical composition, clinical evidence, pharmacological activity, discriminated chemical markers, in vivo exposure, and quality control on twelve distinct species of Viscum plants with medicinal properties. The significant safety and efficacy, along with the minor side effects are constantly confirmed in clinics. The genus Viscum is thus an important medicinal resource that is worth exploring and developing in future pharmacological and chemical studies.