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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 365359, 14 pages
Review Article

Medicinal Plants Used as Antitumor Agents in Brazil: An Ethnobotanical Approach

1Departamento de Biologia, Universidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco, Rua Dom Manoel de Medeiros, s/n, 52171-900 Recife, PE, Brazil
2Departamento de Ciências Farmacêuticas, Centro de Ciências da Saúde, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Avenida Prof. Arthur de Sá, s/n, 50740-521 Recife, PE, Brazil
3Departamento de Antibióticos, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Avenida Prof. Arthur de Sá, s/n, 50740-521 Recife, PE, Brazil

Received 3 July 2010; Revised 15 November 2010; Accepted 9 January 2011

Copyright © 2011 Joabe Gomes de Melo et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


In this study, we describe the medicinal plants that have been reported to be antitumor agents and that have been used in ethnobotanic research in Brazil to answer the following questions: what is the abundance of plants reported to be antitumor in Brazil? Have the plant species used for tumor treatment in traditional Brazilian medicine been sufficiently examined scientifically? Our analysis included papers published between 1980 and 2008. A total of 84 medicinal plant species were reported to be used for cancer and tumor prevention or treatment; 69.05% of these were cited as being used for the treatment of tumors and cancer in general and 30.95% for specific tumors or cancers. The plants that were cited at a higher frequency were Aloe vera, Euphorbia tirucalli, and Tabebuia impetiginosa. At least, one pharmacological study was found for 35.71% of the species. Majority of the studies selected were conducted in rural communities and urban areas and in areas with traditional healers in Brazil. We found the following molecules to be the most studied in vitro and in vivo: silibinin, β-lapachone, plumbagin and capsaicin. The species addressed here constitute interesting objects for future studies to various professionals in the field of natural products.