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Phenolic acids sources, health benefits and uses

Thursday, September 21, 2017 by

A phenolic acid is a kind of aromatic phytochemical known as a polyphenol, which is a naturally occurring plant compound considered to be a micronutrient. Polyphenols as a whole are believed to contain numerous health benefits, and phenolic acids are no different. This group of phytochemicals is most known for being potent antioxidants that prevent free radical oxidation, though their health-promoting qualities don’t just stop there.

There are numerous types of phenolic acids, with the most common ones being capsaicin, curcumin, ellagic acid, gallic acid, salicylic acid, tannic acid, and vanillin. Their food sources vary greatly, but in in general, phenolic acids are highly concentrated in the seeds and skins of fruits, and the leaves of vegetables. Phenolic acids are commercially available as dietary supplements as well, though consuming them from dietary sources are still believed to be the best option of loading up on phenolic acids.

Medicinal uses for phenolic acids

As previously mentioned, phenolic acids are potent antioxidants which keep the body safe from free radicals. These harmful substances degrade cells and have been linked to the increased risk of chronic illnesses like cancer and diabetes. Sans capsaicin, most of the major phenolic acids are known to be powerful antioxidants.

All major phenolic acids are notable as anti-inflammatory agents, with capsaicin and gallic acid being especially powerful in this regard. Inflammation is a natural response to infection, stress, or injury, but chronic inflammation can damage the cells of the body when there’s no stress, injury, or infection to take care of. Fortunately, phenolic acids are said to reduce inflammation to keep this from happening. This makes them highly effective in preventing arthritis, which is a type of inflammation that can result in stiffness and swelling in the joints.

Moreover, their ability to reduce inflammation has made phenolic acids like gallic acid potential antihistamines. Gallic acid, in particular, controls the expression of chemicals that produce inflammatory or allergic responses.

The combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities has led to the belief that phenolic acids can act as anti-aging compounds. Aging results from detrimental changes to the cells and tissues that happen over time, and phenolic acids are said to reduce the effects of these changes specifically because of the aforementioned qualities.

The numerous phenolic acids can minimize the likelihood of developing heart disease in many ways. For instance, capsaicin is known to lower the amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood and keep the flow of blood to the heart smooth and steady. Salicylic acid, on the other hand, impedes the production of thromboxanes and protaglandins, which are two hormones associated with increased heart disease risk.

A number of phenolic compounds are produced by plants as a means to destroy foreign pathogens, so it’s believed that the same antimicrobial and antiviral benefits can carry over to humans.

Body systems supported by phenolic acids

Phenolic acids are good for the skin. Capsaicin, for example, can prevent shingles and psoriasis, which are two painful skin conditions. Salicylic acid, meanwhile, not only treats psoriasis, but can boost the overall health of the skin by remedying corns, calluses, acne, and warts, as well as reduce visible signs of aging.

As antioxidants, phenolic acids can strengthen the immune system and help it fight off diseases and infections.

Moreover, the antioxidant effects of phenolic acids can keep oxidative stress from affecting and damaging brain macromolecules, thus providing protection against various neurological diseases.

Where to learn more


Phenolic acids are plant-based compounds with antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties. They can support the immune system, skin, brain, and heart. In addition, they’re known to prevent the onset of such health ailments as heart disease, arthritis, and psoriasis.

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