The genus Orobanche consists of annual, biennial or perennial fleshy parasitic herb species, many of which are in use as traditional medicines and wild gathered foods since a long time. Recently, Orobanche spp. are increasingly accepted as edible medicines with nourishing properties. However, there is a lack of comprehensive understanding of their ethnopharmacological background. This review focuses on the advancements in botanical classification, and summary of traditional use, phytochemistry, pharmacology and toxicology of Orobanche species, in order to check for scientific support of their traditional uses and the safe treatment of human ailments and diseases. In this review, the results of a systematic and comprehensive literature survey about Orobanche spp over the past 60 years (from 1960 to 2020) is presented. The selected literature includes periodicals, doctoral dissertations, master dissertations conference papers and various books. The literature was identified through search engine websites and a cross-checked with the Chinese pharmacopeia, classic Chinese and European herbals, regional medicinal monographs, and online ethnobotanical databases. The literature about the traditional uses revealed that Orobanche spp. were used as medicine and food in many regions of the world, but mainly in China and North America while in Europe they were primarily used as food items. Phenylpropanoid derivatives and alkaloids, were reported as their main bioactive compounds, showing antioxidant, immune system enhancing, androgenic, antibacterial and antiviral properties. Orobanche spp. are increasingly being used for tonic purposes in China. Their ethnopharmacological background suggests potential usages as healthy foods and food supplements. They have the potential to be developed into herbal medicines for tonifying the kidney, against impotence and spermatorrhea, dermatological problems and wounds, as well as infantile diarrhoea. However, the pharmacological studies conducted with extracts derived from Orobanche spp. were not useful for rationally explaining the traditional uses. More investigations are required to provide a pharmacological basis for the traditional claims and the relationship between traditional uses, clinical uses, phytochemistry and pharmacological properties. Additionally, quality control should be emphasized to ensure the safe and effective use of Orobanche derived products. Copyright © 2020 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.