Rhazya stricta Decne. is an important medicinal species that is rich in alkaloids containing anticancer alkaloids also. This paper reviews phytochemical, pharmacological and ethnobotanical studies of R. stricta. Phytochemical and pharmacological aspects of the species have been thoroughly explored. Over 100 alkaloids have been isolated from R. stricta, but the pharmacological activities are known for only a few of these compounds. Very few ethnobotanical studies of R. stricta have been done, and there is a particular need for such studies in various regions of South Asia and in Middle Eastern countries where the species grows. These ethnobotanical studies should investigate herbal recipes of R. stricta and their use for curing diseases. The genetic diversity, chemotaxonomy and allelopathy of R. stricta have not yet been explored, and these studies are recommended, with the ultimate goal of benefiting local communities in regions where R. stricta grows. This should be achieved by sharing knowledge and through the manufacture of herbal drugs from R. stricta's active chemical constituents, while protecting intellectual property rights and following the World Health Organization's guidelines for safety and efficacy. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.