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Coumarin: Origin, History, Risks and Uses

Updated on June 21, 2015

Overview

Coumarin is a natural substance found in many plants such as sweet clover, cinnamon, licorice, tonka beans, lavender, strawberries, apricots and cherries. Generally, the geographical location of the substance will be primarily where the source plants are located. Sweet clover are found growing in arid and open areas. Originally, sweet clover is native to North Africa, Europe and temperate zone of Asia. Through time, it has been imported to North America for cultivation. Other geographical areas where the source plants or seeds that produces coumarin are found include Sri Lanka, Seychelles, Madagascar, Southern Europe, Central America, Northern South America, Cape Verde, Canary Islands, Southwest Asia to Southeast India, Armenia, Italy and North America.

Sweet Clover, Source of Coumarin

Source

True Cinnamon

Cinnamon Sticks

Source

History of Coumarin

Historically, coumarin was extracted in the 1800s by various scientists. First, a German named A. Vogel in 1820 followed by Nicholas G. Guibourt in the same year. Later on, a French Pharmacist also isolated the same product as coumarin. It derived its name from a French term for the tonka bean, coumarou, which was one of the sources it was isolated as natural product in 1820.

Medicinal Uses

Coumarin has been used in many applications. Some of which are medicinal in nature while others are as cosmetics, for social use as in alcohol drinks, and food products. Natural coumarin that are isolated may not be added to food products. Only about 2 milligrams of coumarin per kilogram of food is added to flavouring foods especially when it is from a part of a plant. Due to liver concern, it has been banned as a flavorant food additive. In pharmaceutical applications, coumarin, a vitamin K blocker, has been employed as a reagent in the manufacturing of a number of pharmaceuticals such as warfarin and in some other rodent poisoning substances. Some of the disease categories in which coumarin has been found to be useful include cancer, hypertension, arrthymia, inflammatory process, osteoporosis, asthma and edema. Certain anticoagulant class like 4-hydroxycoumarin has been formulated to exhibit higher strength and concentration and thereby possess long half life in the resident body. This makes them excellent product as pesticides. Coumarin by itself actually seem to function as a pesticide around its parent plant.

Coumarin Sources, Products and Structure

Source

Other Uses

Coumarin has been used for many other purposes other than medical use. It has been employed in perfumes, fabric conditioners, aroma enhancers, alcoholic drinks, as spice for cinnamon, dye lasers, as a sensitizer, toilet soap, tooth paste and hair preparations.

Issues with Coumarin

Despite all the benefits provided by coumarin, it has its downside. Consumption of cinnamon-flavored foods, drinks, or food supplements may pose a higher risk of liver damage according to report in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. There are variations in the coumarin content of cinnamon products. Ceylon cinnamon foundin Sri Lanka tends to have lower coumarin while cinnamon found in Indonesia and China, known as Cassia cinnamon, appear to have very high coumarin content. Therefore, it is possible that people who consume more of cassia cinnamon may face the risk of liver damage.

Conclusion

Many products have been supported by the addition of coumarin. As a result, products like warfarin, pesticides, toilet soap, hair preparation items and sensitizers have been useful in our society. Source plants for coumarin also have been grownacross the world. Sweet clover and lavender can be located in non original locations just as other plants. Coumarins are extracted from its source plant and are used in products like soap and hair preparation products. As of date, there has not been much direct report regarding side effect other than liver concern.

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