Structure-radical scavenging activity relationships of phenolic compounds from traditional Chinese medicinal plants

Yi Zhong Cai, Sun Mei Sun, Xing Jie Xing, Qiong Luo, Harold Corke*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

724 Scopus citations


Traditional Chinese medicinal plants associated with anticancer contain a wide variety of natural phenolic compounds with various structural features and possessing widely differing antioxidant activity. The structure-radical scavenging activity relationships of a large number of representative phenolic compounds (e.g., flavanols, flavonols, chalcones, flavones, flavanones, isoflavones, tannins, stilbenes, curcuminoids, phenolic acids, coumarins, lignans, and quinones) identified in the traditional Chinese medicinal plants were evaluated using the improved ABTS•+ and DPPH methods. Different categories of tested phenolics showed significant mean differences in radical scavenging activity. Tannins demonstrated the strongest activity, while most quinones, isoflavones, and lignans tested showed the weakest activity. This study confirmed that the number and position of hydroxyl groups and the related glycosylation and other substitutions largely determined radical scavenging activity of the tested phenolic compounds. The differences in radical scavenging activity were attributed to structural differences in hydroxylation, glycosylation and methoxylation. The ortho-dihydroxy groups were the most important structural feature of high activity for all tested phenolic compounds. Other structural features played a modified role in enhancing or reducing the activity. Within each class of phenolic compounds, the structure-activity relationship was elucidated and discussed. This study reveals the structure-activity relationships of a large series of representative natural phenolic compounds more systematically and fully than previous work. Structure-radical scavenging activity relationships of some natural phenolics identified in the medicinal plants were evaluated for the first time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2872-2888
Number of pages17
JournalLife Sciences
Issue number25
StatePublished - 15 May 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Coumarins
  • Flavonoids
  • Lignans
  • Phenolic acids
  • Phenolic compounds
  • Quinones
  • Radical scavenging activity
  • Stilbenes
  • Structure-activity relationships
  • Tannins
  • Traditional Chinese medicinal plants


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