Genus Retama: a review on traditional uses, phytochemistry, and pharmacological activities

  • A. J. León-González
  • I. Navarro
  • N. Acero
  • D. Muñoz Mingarro
  • C. Martín-Cordero


Plants of the genus Retama (Fabaceae) are used in traditional medicine of the Mediterranean Basin as an emetic, purgative, and vermifuge. Certain Retama species are also employed to treat a multitude of disorders, including diabetes, hepatitis, jaundice, sore throat, skin diseases, joint pain, rheumatism, fever, and inflammation. This review deals with updated information on the distribution, botanical characteristics, ethnopharmacology, phytochemistry, pharmacological activities, and toxicity of the Retama species in order to support their therapeutic potential and to provide an input for future research prospects. The Retama species are mainly employed as ethnomedicinal remedies in Mediterranean countries, including Algeria, Egypt, Italy, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, and Spain. Previous phytochemical studies show a complex composition, rich in carbohydrates (galactomannans), polyols (pinitol), fatty acids, phenolic compounds (genistein, daidzein) and alkaloids (retamine, lupanine). The pharmacological activity of their various extracts has been widely studied, revealing, among others, the anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic effects of these species. The potential toxicity of these medicinal plants has also been discussed. Although recent experimental evidence confirms the pharmacological interest of this genus, further studies are necessary.


R. monosperma R. raetam R. sphaerocarpa Quinolizidine alkaloids Isoflavones 



Gas liquid chromatography mass spectrometry


Minimum inhibitory concentration


Reversed phase high performance liquid chromatography


Human cytomegalovirus


Methicillin sensitive Staphylococcus aureus


Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus


Reactive oxygen species




50% inhibitory concentration


Total antioxidant capacity


Advanced glycation end products


Superoxide dismutase


Glutathione peroxidase




Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug




Trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid


Tumour necrosis factor alpha




Inducible nitric oxide synthase



Authors express their gratitude to Fundación Universitaria San Pablo-CEU and Banco de Santander for the financial support (PPC 20/2015).


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Authors and Affiliations

  • A. J. León-González
    • 1
    • 2
  • I. Navarro
    • 3
  • N. Acero
    • 4
  • D. Muñoz Mingarro
    • 5
  • C. Martín-Cordero
    • 2
  1. 1.Maimonides Institute of Biomedical Research of Cordoba (IMIBIC)CórdobaSpain
  2. 2.Department of PharmacologyFaculty of Pharmacy, Seville UniversitySevilleSpain
  3. 3.Department of Physical ChemistryFaculty of Pharmacy, Seville UniversitySevilleSpain
  4. 4.Pharmaceutical and Health Sciences DepartmentSan Pablo-CEU University, CEU UniversitiesBoadilla del Monte, MadridSpain
  5. 5.Chemistry and Biochemistry DepartmentSan Pablo-CEU University, CEU UniversitiesBoadilla del Monte, MadridSpain

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