Are the traditional medical uses of Muricidae molluscs substantiated by their pharmacological properties and bioactive compounds?

Kirsten Benkendorff, David Rudd, Bijayalakshmi Devi Nongmaithem, Lei Liu, Fiona Young, Vicki Edwards, Cathy Avila, Catherine A. Abbott

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Marine molluscs from the family Muricidae hold great potential for development as a source of therapeutically useful compounds. Traditionally known for the production of the ancient dye Tyrian purple, these molluscs also form the basis of some rare traditional medicines that have been used for thousands of years. Whilst these traditional and alternative medicines have not been chemically analysed or tested for efficacy in controlled clinical trials, a significant amount of independent research has documented the biological activity of extracts and compounds from these snails. In particular, Muricidae produce a suite of brominated indoles with anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and steroidogenic activity, as well as choline esters with muscle-relaxing and pain relieving properties. These compounds could explain some of the traditional uses in wound healing, stomach pain and menstrual problems. However, the principle source of bioactive compounds is from the hypobranchial gland, whilst the shell and operculum are the main source used in most traditional remedies. Thus further research is required to understand this discrepancy and to optimise a quality controlled natural medicine from Muricidae.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5237-5275
Number of pages39
JournalMarine Drugs
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Choline esters
  • Ethnomedicine
  • Indoles
  • Marine natural products
  • Whelk

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