Background: The Mediterranean basin is one of the richest biodiversity areas in the world, and
the use of medicinal plants for treating cancer in this area has been documented for generations
in different cultures.
Objective: To present and discuss the findings related to medicinal plants with confirmed data
on active compounds and/or clear mode of action.
Methods: We undertook a structured search of bibliography of peer-reviewed research literature
using key words and a focused review question. Papers with sufficient quality were reviewed,
their findings presented and integrated into a coherent, state of the art document on
wild plants of the Middle East with anti-cancer activity.
Results: 121 papers were included in the review, among them 10 define herbal medicine, 3
describe the status of cancer worldwide, 18 discuss biodiversity, chemodiversity, ethnopharmacological
survey and conservation of medicinal plants, 12 describe well known natural products
from plants used to treat cancer and 78 papers describe specific compounds and mode of action
in different wild plants from the middle east, traditionally used to treat cancer.
Conclusions: Confirmed data on active compounds and/or clear mode of action exist for several
wild plants traditionally used in herbal medicine to treat cancer. Yet, medicinal plants were
mainly gathered from the wild, resulting in some of the commonly used herbs becoming endangered
species. Also, in many cases, the activity and biochemical profile of plants harvested
over different time spans and ecosystems may vary. Rational cultivation may ensure optimized
yield with a uniform high quality of products.