Nauclea latifolia: biological activity and alkaloid phytochemistry of a West African tree
Covering up to 2016
Nauclea latifolia (syn. Sarcocephalus latifolius, Rubiaceae), commonly called the African pincushion tree, is a plant widely used in folk medicine in different regions of Africa for treating a variety of illnesses, including malaria, epilepsy and pain. N. latifolia has not only drawn the interest of traditional healers but also of phytochemists, who have identified a range of bioactive indole alkaloids in its tissue. More recently, following up on the traditional use of extracts in pain management, a bio-guided purification from the roots of the tree led to the identification of the active ingredient as tramadol, available as a synthetic analgesic since the 1970s. The discovery of this compound as a natural phytochemical was highlighted worldwide. This review focuses on the correlation between extracted compounds and pharmacological activities, paying special attention to infectious diseases and neurologically-related disorders. A critical analysis of the data reported so far on the natural origin of tramadol and its proposed biosynthesis is also presented.