Background: Uncaria rhynchophylla (Miq.) Jacks (Rubinaceae), a common herbal medicine known as Gou-teng in Chinese, is commonly used in Chinese medicine practice for the treatment of convulsions, hypertension, epilepsy, eclampsia and other cerebral diseases. The major active components of U. rhynchophylla are alkaloids, terpenoids and flavonoids. The protective effects of U. rhynchophylla and its major components on central nervous system (CNS) have become a focus of research in recent decades.Objective: The study aimed to systematically summarize the pharmacological activities of U. rhynchophylla and its major components on the CNS. Methods: This review summarized the experimental findings from our laboratories, together with other literature data obtained through a comprehensive search of databases including the Pubmed and the Web of Science. Results: U. rhynchophylla and its major components such as rhynchophylline and isorhynchophylline have been shown to have neuroprotective effects on Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, depression, cerebral ischaemia through a number of mechanisms including anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory actions and regulation on neurotransmitters. Conclusion: U. rhynchophylla and its major components have multiple beneficial pharmacological effects on CNS. Further studies on U. rhynchophylla and its major components are warranted to fully illustrate the underlying molecular mechanisms, pharmacokinetics, and toxicological profiles of these naturally occurring compounds and their potential for clinical application.
Keywords: Uncaria rhynchophylla, alkaloids, rhynchophylline, isorhynchophylline, central nervous system, pharmacological actions.