Taxus is a genus of 12 species mainly distributed in the Northern Hemisphere, with four species in North America, one in Europe, and the remaining native to Southeast Asia. Taxus contains numerous compounds of taxane derivatives, polysaccharides, and flavanoids. The compound with the greatest significance for humans is an oxygen-rich diterpene called taxol, which can be used as an inhibitor of cancer cell growth. Many new biological activities of these chemical compounds have been discovered to fight against various cancers (e.g., ovarian, breast, esophagus, gastric, lung, and prostate cancers), anti-oxidation, cure inflammatory and HIV effects, and eliminate free radicals. This review revises the information on the morphological characteristics and geographical distribution, generalizes the relationship of special secondary metabolites among species, summarizes the main pharmacological activities of the compounds contained in plant, and also puts forward some effective strategies for the exploitation and protection of the Taxus species. These works may be helpful for the researcher and utilizer.
Keywords: Bioactivity, distribution, morphology, secondary metabolites, Taxus, taxol.