Medicinal plants of the genus Betula--traditional uses and a phytochemical-pharmacological review.J Ethnopharmacol. 2015 Jan 15; 159:62-83.JE
Trees and shrubs of the genus Betula (Betulaceae) inhabit various ecosystems in temperate and boreal climate zones of the northern hemisphere. The healing properties of Betula bark and bark extracts have been known for a long time in traditional medicine in different parts of the world. Several species of Betula have traditionally been used for the treatment of various inflammatory diseases including arthritis. The purpose of this review is to provide updated, comprehensive and categorized information on the botany, traditional uses, phytochemistry and pharmacological and toxicological research of Betula species in order to explore their therapeutic potential and evaluate future research opportunities.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
All the available information on various species belonging to the genus Betula was collected via electronic search (using Pubmed, SciFinder, Scirus, Google Scholar, JCCC@INSTIRC and Web of Science) and a library search for articles published in peer-reviewed journals.
Although over a hundred Betula species are found distributed globally, about 7 different species of Betula have been documented for their traditional uses. Phytochemical research on Betula species has led to the isolation of triterpenoids, diarylheptanoids, phenylbutanoids, lignans, phenolics and flavonoids. Crude extracts, fractions and phytochemical constituents isolated from Betula showed a wide spectrum of in vitro and in vivo pharmacological activities like immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiviral, antioxidant, antidiabetic, dermatological, gastroprotective and hepatoprotective. Antiarthritic and anticancer are the two major areas of research conducted on these species. The anti-carcinogenic effects of Betula bark, betulin as well as betulinic acid have been extensively studied.
Several species belonging to the genus Betula are widely used in traditional medicine. Betula platyphylla and Betula pendula have specifically been found to be potentially useful in the treatment of degenerative joint disease. There is convincing evidence in experimental animal models in support of their anti-carcinogenic effects. However, it would be worthwhile to investigate the biochemical and physiological mechanisms as well as detailed preclinical toxicity, bioavailability, pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of the different biologically active extracts as well as molecules in sufficient detail. An integrated and holistic approach is required for tapping the full potentials of this important genus.