The approximately 125 species of the genus Calea L. (Asteraceae) are distributed throughout tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas. Some species have medicinal properties. Based on popular knowledge, different phytochemical and pharmacological activities have been the focus of research. This review aims to provide an overview of the current state of knowledge of medicinal uses, chemical constituents, and pharmacological activities of Calea species. Phytochemical and pharmacological studies have been performed on 37 species to date. Aerial parts, leaves and stems of these plants have been tested for several biological effects including antinociceptive, vasodilator, cytotoxic and antimicrobial activities. Extracts obtained from plants of the genus Calea have also been assayed for potential antiparasitic effects, especially for antiplasmodial, leishmanicidal, acaricidal and trypanocidal activities. Phytochemical investigations have confirmed that Calea species are rich in sesquiterpenes, chromenes, chromanones, flavonoids and other chemical compounds less attractive from the point of view of molecular diversity. This review confirms that certain Calea spp. enjoy widespread popular use in the treatment of infections, and the observed antiparasitic activities can provide new insights for further investigations on isolated compounds.
Key words: Medicinal plants, Sesquiterpene lactones, Calea.
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