Phoenix dactylifera L., commonly known as the date palm is a primeval plant and has been cultivated for its edible fruit in the desert oasis of the Arab world for centuries. The fruits are a rich source of carbohydrates, dietary fibers, certain essential vitamins and minerals. The date pits are also an excellent source of dietary fiber and contain considerable amounts of minerals, lipids and protein. In addition to its dietary use the dates are of medicinal use and are used to treat a variety of ailments in the various traditional systems of medicine. Phytochemical investigations have revealed that the fruits contain anthocyanins, phenolics, sterols, carotenoids, procyanidins and flavonoids, compounds known to possess multiple beneficial effects. Preclinical studies have shown that the date fruits possess free radical scavenging, antioxidant, antimutagenic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, gastroprotective, hepatoprotective, nephroprotective, anticancer and immunostimulant activities. This review presents a comprehensive analysis of the phytochemistry and validated pharmacological properties of date fruits and the seeds. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.