Chemistry, pharmacology and therapeutic potential of swertiamarin – a promising natural lead for new drug discovery and development

Nur Sakinah Muhamad Fadzil, Mahendran Sekar, Siew Hua Gan, Srinivasa Reddy Bonam, Yuan Seng Wu, Jaishree Vaijanathappa, Subban Ravi, Pei Teng Lum, Shivsharan B. Dhadde

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Swertiamarin, a seco-iridoid glycoside, is mainly found in Enicostemma littorale Blume (E. littorale) and exhibits therapeutic activities for various diseases. The present study aimed to provide a review of swertiamarin in terms of its phytochemistry, physicochemical properties, biosynthesis, pharmacology and therapeutic potential. Relevant literature was collected from several scientific databases, including PubMed, ScienceDirect, Scopus and Google Scholar, between 1990 and the present. This review included the distribution of swertiamarin in medicinal plants and its isolation, characterization, physicochemical properties and possible biosynthetic pathways. A comprehensive summary of the pharmacological activities, therapeutic potential and metabolic pathways of swertiamarin was also included after careful screening and tabulation. Based on the reported evidence, swertiamarin meets all five of Lipinski’s rules for drug-like properties. Thereafter, the physicochemical properties of swertiamarin were detailed and analyzed. A simple and rapid method for isolating swertiamarin from E. littorale has been described. The present review proposed that swertiamarin may be biosynthesized by the mevalonate or nonmevalonate pathways, followed by the seco-iridoid pathway. It has also been found that swertiamarin is a potent compound with diverse pharmacological activities, including hepatoprotective, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antiarthritis, antidiabetic, antioxidant, neuroprotective and gastroprotective activities. The anticancer activity of swertiamarin against different cancer cell lines has been recently reported. The underlying mechanisms of all these pharmacological effects are diverse and seem to involve the regulation of different molecular targets, including growth factors, inflammatory cytokines, protein kinases, apoptosis-related proteins, receptors and enzymes. Swertiamarin also modulates the activity of several transcription factors, and their signaling pathways in various pathological conditions are also discussed. Moreover, we have highlighted the toxicity profile, pharmacokinetics and possible structural modifications of swertiamarin. The pharmacological activities and therapeutic potential of swertiamarin have been extensively investigated. However, more advanced studies are required including clinical trials and studies on the bioavailability, permeability and administration of safe doses to offer swertiamarin as a novel candidate for future drug development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2721-2746
Number of pages26
JournalDrug Design, Development and Therapy
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Biosynthesis
  • Enicostemma littorale
  • Inflammatory cytokines
  • Metabolic pathway
  • Molecular targets
  • Swertiamarin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery


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