Egyptian Pharmaceutical Journal

: 2018  |  Volume : 17  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 61--66

Capparis spinosa L.: a natural source of pharmaceuticals

Mohamed Amin El-Ansari, Lamyaa Fawzy Ibrahim, Mohamed Sharaf 
 Department of Phytochemistry and Plant Systematics, National Research Centre, Dokki, Cairo, Egypt

Correspondence Address:
Lamyaa Fawzy Ibrahim
Department of Phytochemistry and Plant Systematics, National Research Centre, Dokki 12311, Cairo


Capparis spinosa L. (Caper) is an important source of different secondary metabolites of beneficial activities on human health. Phytochemical studies have shown the presence of many bioactive compounds such as spermidine, rutin, quercetin, kaempferol, stigmasterol, tocopherols, and carotenoids. Biological studies reveal important antimicrobial, antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, immunomodulatory, and antiviral properties. The present review summarizes information concerning biological activities of some compounds isolated from C. spinosa for the management of several diseases.

How to cite this article:
El-Ansari MA, Ibrahim LF, Sharaf M. Capparis spinosa L.: a natural source of pharmaceuticals.Egypt Pharmaceut J 2018;17:61-66

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El-Ansari MA, Ibrahim LF, Sharaf M. Capparis spinosa L.: a natural source of pharmaceuticals. Egypt Pharmaceut J [serial online] 2018 [cited 2018 Nov 17 ];17:61-66
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Capparis spinosa L., which is known in Arabic as ‘Kabbar’, is one of the Capparidaceae family members. Caper genus contains more than 250 species, which are widely distributed throughout the different habitats ranging from Morocco to Crimea, Armenia and Iran [1],[2]. Different parts of C. spinosa have been used as a traditional herbal remedy that has beneficial effects on human health.

The whole plant has been used for the treatment of rheumatism and as antimicrobial herbal source. Roots have been used as diuretic and against gastrointestinal problems and also to treat fever, rheumatism, paralysis, toothache, and kill worms in the ear. Bark root, which has a pungent taste, has been used as an appetizer, astringent, tonic, and antidiarrheic and to treat hemorrhoids and spleen diseases. Bark has also been used for gout and rheumatism, as expectorant and against chest diseases. An infusion of stem and root bark was used as antidiarrheic and febrifuge. Fresh fruits have been traditionally used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, sciatica, and dropsy. Dried and powdered fruit combined with honey was used against colds, rheumatism, gout, sciatica, and backache. As a decoction, it was used for gastric pain and has been applied on the whole body to reduce severity of epilepsy seizers.

Seeds have been used against feminine sterility and dysmenorrhea and as antiproliferative and as HIV-1 reverse transcriptase inhibitor. Crushed seeds were used for ulcers, scrofula, and ganglions. The crushed leaves were applied as a poultice on the front against headache and to relieve toothache as well as an anti-inflammatory agent [3],[4],[5],[6],[7],[8],[9],[10].


Preliminary screening of the alcoholic extract of C. spinosa revealed the presence of many biologically active chemical groups including alkaloids, glycosides, carbohydrates, tannins, phenolics, flavonoids, triterpenoids, volatile oil, and fatty acid, whereas the aqueous extract showed the presence of steroids, glycosides, carbohydrates, flavonoids, and saponins [11],[12],[13].

 Biological activity

As there is insignificant scientific evidence regarding acute, subacute, and chronic toxicity owing to the usage of C. spinosa, it is considered a very imperative and safe herbal medicine used as antihyperlipidemic, antihypertensive, antihepatotoxic, and as a potential of source of inhibitory bioactive compounds used in the traditional medicine such as antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, nuclear factor-κB, and anticarcinogenic [6],[14],[15],[16],[17],[18],[19],[20]. In ancient times, people used roots, leaves, buds, fruits, bark, and seeds of C. spinosa for several medicinal purposes and to treat diseases such as rheumatism, stomach problems, headache, and toothache. [Table 1] represents the use of C. spinosa by people in ancient times.{Table 1}

The different parts of the plant include a wide variety of active secondary metabolites endowed with several documented biological activities used in the traditional medicine. The pharmacological properties of these parts are tabulated in [Table 2].{Table 2}

Although frequently phytochemicals act synergistically with other compounds in the plants, instead of working alone, many chemical constituents were isolated from C. spinosa [25],[26],[27]. Some of them showed a wide variety of biological activities. Searching the available sources, and to the best of our knowledge, a summary of the compounds naturally isolated from C. spinosa and showed biological activity are presented in [Table 3].{Table 3}


The different health promotion activities of C. spinosa makes it a good candidate for discovering a new series of naturally originated drugs.

C. spinosa L. has a wide range of applications in the traditional medicine. Recently, the pharmacology and chemistry of this plant have been extensively studied. Chemical studies of the different parts of C. spinosa have shown the presence of many beneficial compounds. Biological studies have revealed significant antidiabetic, antimicrobial, antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, and antiviral activities, providing a support to traditional medicinal uses. Nevertheless, despite its importance and variable pharmacological studies available, future experimental and clinical trials are necessary to confirm the use of this species in medical practice [82].

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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