ABSTRACT In order to compile the empirical use, as well as the chemical, pharmacological and biological aspects of Himatanthus drasticus (Mart.) Plumel, Apocynaceae, a review was carried out by searching PubMed, Google Scholar, Scientific Electronic Online Library, Web of Science, Science Direct, Scopus and Cochrane. For that, works in English, Spanish and Portuguese, preclinical studies and revisions, addressing chemical, pharmacological, biological properties and popular uses, from 1994 to 2017, were used. The therapeutic potential of the “milk-of-janaguba” (a mixture of the latex with water) became widely known for the treatment of neoplasias, mainly lung and lymphatic cancer types, in the 1970s. The available literature presents works related to the anti-inflammatory, antinociceptive, antitumor and gastroprotective properties of the latex from bark and leaves of H. drasticus. In addition, this review presents some of our own results with the triterpene-rich fraction from H. drasticus, attempting to clarify its action mechanisms at the molecular level. The antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory activities of H. drasticus are probably associated with inhibitions of inflammatory mediators, as TNF-alpha, iNOS, COX-2 and NF-kB. Most importantly, a triterpene-rich fraction also inhibited HDAC activity, and compounds with this activity have been considered as therapeutic agents with antitumor activity. In conclusion, although the literature shows several works on species of the Himatanthus genus, including H. drasticus, dealing with some bioactive compounds as triterpenes, translational studies focusing upon the clinical uses of this medicinal species are still in great need.