Planta Med 2010; 76(7): 653-661
DOI: 10.1055/s-0029-1240898
© Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

Plectranthus barbatus: A Review of Phytochemistry, Ethnobotanical Uses and Pharmacology – Part 1

Rawiya H. Alasbahi1 , Matthias F. Melzig2
  • 1Faculty of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmacognosy, University of Aden, Crater-Aden, Yemen
  • 2Institute of Pharmacy, Free University Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Further Information

Publication History

received May 19, 2009 revised Dec. 7, 2009

accepted January 25, 2010

Publication Date:
22 February 2010 (eFirst)


Plectranthus barbatus Andr. is one of the most important species of the genus Plectranthus L′ Herit. (Lamiaceae), with a wide variety of traditional medicinal uses in Hindu and Ayurvedic traditional medicine as well as in the folk medicine of Brazil, tropical Africa and China. The plant has therefore been an attractive target for intensive chemical and pharmacological studies up to now. This review presents data about the phytochemistry, ethnobotanical uses and pharmacology of Plectranthus barbatus as well as the pharmacology of its constituents. In addition to essential oil, abietane diterpenoids and 8,13-epoxy-labd-14-en-11-one diterpenoids are the main constituents found in Plectranthus barbatus. The major ethnobotanical uses are for intestinal disturbance and liver fatigue, respiratory disorders, heart diseases and certain nervous system disorders. Forskolin as one of the major constituents with its unique adenylyl cyclase activation that underlies the wide range of pharmacological properties could explain the different traditional uses of Plectranthus barbatus. Forskolin is involved in a number of patented pharmaceutical preparations used as over-the-counter drugs for the treatment of several ailments. However, the water-insoluble nature of forskolin limits its clinical usefulness. Forskolin thus served as a prototype for the development of 6-(3-dimethylaminopropionyl)forskolin hydrochloride (NKH477) as a potent water-soluble forskolin derivative that finds use in the therapy for a number of diseases especially of the cardiovascular system.


Prof. Dr. Matthias F. Melzig

Institute of Pharmacy
Free University Berlin

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14195 Berlin


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