Phenolic Compounds in Plants of Pharmaceutical Interest

  • H. Wagner
Part of the Recent Advances in Phytochemistry book series (RAPT, volume 12)


Nearly all naturally occurring phenolic compounds, including phenol itself and the polyphenolic tannins, possess some biological or pharmacological activity. This is not surprising for the phenolic OH-group has a strong affinity for proteins, and therefore for enzymes. This activity is vividly illustrated by the astringent and tanning activity of vegetable polyphenols on skin proteins. In model experiments with polymeric amides, such as perlon or nylon, it can be shown that the bond energy of the hydrogen bonds between phenols and the amides of the polyamide chain is almost twice high as that between the polyamide chains themselves17(see Fig. 1). In model experiments it can be demonstrated that phenols are actually able to break the bonds between the polyamide chains and penetrate to the inside of the polymers, thus causing the polyamide to swell. This kind of action is used in biochemistry to solubilize proteins and, for example, to separate them from polysaccharides. The elution curves for the removal of various phenols from polyamide show that the strength of binding does not depend solely on the number of phenolic OH-groups. Thus pyrogallol is eluted more rapidly than phenol, or nitrophenol and gallic acid, for example, is more strongly adsorbed than any of these compounds. In addition to the size of the molecule, neighbouring group effects, and delocalizability, the electron donor or acceptor character of a given molecule makes a significant contribution to the bonding ability and the strength of bonding of phenols with biological material. Such relationships can only be described on the basis of molecular biology, and they can only be measured by applying quantum chemical methods.


Phenolic Compound Aldose Reductase Coniferyl Alcohol Pharmaceutical Interest Spasmolytic Activity 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. Wagner
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für Pharmazeutische ArzneimittellehreUniversität MünchenMünchenDeutschland

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