, Volume 74, Issue 7, pp 863–888 | Cite as

Natural product coumarins: biological and pharmacological perspectives

  • M. Iftikhar HussainEmail author
  • Qamar Abbas Syed
  • Muhammad Nasir Khan Khattak
  • Baraa Hafez
  • Manuel J. Reigosa
  • Ali El-Keblawy


Plants produce and release a vast variety of secondary metabolites with diversified functions, and possess ecological, toxicological and biological effects that mimic the activities of synthetic chemicals. Coumarins extracted from bacteria, fungi and many edible plants are widely used for their antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anti-HIV and anticancer activities. This review presents a concise summary based on the latest knowledge of the biological and pharmaceutical uses of coumarin and its derivatives, including an evaluation of future therapeutic potential. The presence of coumarins in various plant organs like fruits, seeds, roots, leaves and latex supplement recent work reported in scientific literature related to these compounds and their development. Due to low production in plants, the upscaling and industrial scale production, commercialization and industry demand of coumarins has faced hurdles. We searched Google Scholar and Web of Science for relevant literature upto 2018 using the keywords pharmaceutical, biological activities and coumarins. This review has thoroughly overviewed the related facts and figures about coumarins and its derivatives, especially in terms of biological and pharmaceutical properties including anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-diabetic, anticoagulant, estrogenic, dermal photosensitizing, vasodilator, molluscacidal, antithelmintic, sedative and hypnotic, analgesic, hypothermic, anti-cancer activity, anti-oxidant, anti-parasitic, antihelmintic, anti-proliferative, anti-convulsant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-hypertensive activities. The pharmaceutical impact of coumarins on public health is a complex phenomenon, with several questions in relation to safety during medical therapies and consumption through diet. The present review focuses on coumarin clinical studies in the treatment of various chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, depression, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and HIV. However, further research and review are necessary to broaden the therapeutic effectiveness of coumarin in patients suffering from such ailments.


Secondary metabolites Multifunctionality Antimicrobial activity Pharmacopeia Antibacterial 



Secondary metabolites


83 Deoxyribonucleic acid


Diabetes mellitus


International diabetes federation


World health organization


Reactive oxygen species


Gallium corrole-coumarin dyads


Minimum inhibitory concentration


Human immunodeficiency virus


Dicamphanoyl khellactone; PK2, Protein kinase 2



Galician Government (project 10PXIB310261PR) and Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (project AGL2010-17885 financially supported the research. We are grateful to Prof. Dr. Inaam Hamadi, Department of English Language and Literature, University of Sharjah, UAE for his kind help in the English language/grammar correction.

Compliance with ethical standards

Confict of interest

The authors declare no competing financial interests.


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Copyright information

© Institute of Molecular Biology, Slovak Academy of Sciences 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Institute of Science & EngineeringUniversity of SharjahSharjahUnited Arab Emirates
  2. 2.Department of Plant Biology and Soil ScienceUniversity of VigoVigoSpain
  3. 3.Department of Animal and Food ScienceUniversitat Autónoma de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  4. 4.National Institute of Food Science and TechnologyUniversity of Agriculture FaisalabadFaisalabadPakistan
  5. 5.Department of Applied Biology, College of SciencesUniversity of SharjahSharjahUnited Arab Emirates
  6. 6.Department of ChemistryUniversity of SharjahSharjahUnited Arab Emirates

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