Phthalides are widely present in plants, fungi and liverworts. Many phthalide-containing plants have been used worldwide as herbal remedies in traditional and folk medicines, dietary supplements and food flavorings. In this review, the chemical structures, classifications, and plant sources of about 137 natural phthalides of plant origins are described. The recent advances in the biological activities of these pthalides, such as actions on the central nervous system, anti-platelet aggregation and anti-thrombosis, cardiac function modulation and anti-angina, inhibition of smooth muscle cell proliferation, protection against cerebral ischemia, and smooth muscle relaxation, are also discussed.
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