Ferulic acid

Ferulic acid


Ferulic acid is an organic compound that is an abundant phenolic phytochemical found in plant cell walls. It is a derivative of trans-cinnamic acid. As a component of lignin, ferulic acid is a Precursor in the manufacture of other aromatic compounds.

Etymology : from Ferula, giant fennel.

Occurrence in nature

Ferulic acid, together with dihydroferulic acid, is a component of lignocellulose, serving to crosslink the lignin and polysaccharides, thereby conferring rigidity to the cell walls. It is found in seeds of plants such as in rice, wheat, and oats, as well as in coffee, apple, artichoke, peanut, orange and pineapple. It can be extracted from wheat bran and maize bran using concentrated alkali. Biosynthesis of ferulic acid is by the action of the enzyme O-methyl transferase on caffeic acid .

It is an intermediate in the synthesis of monolignols, i.e., the monomers of lignin, and is also used for the synthesis of lignans.

Bio-medical considerations

Ferulic acid, like many phenols, is an antioxidant in the sense that it is reactive toward free radicals such as reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS and free radicals are implicated in DNA damage, cancer, accelerated cell aging. Animal studies and in vitro studies suggest that ferulic acid may have direct antitumor activity against breast cancer and liver cancer . Ferulic acid may have pro-apoptotic effects in cancer cells, thereby leading to their destruction . Ferulic acid may be effective at preventing cancer induced by exposure to the carcinogenic compounds benzopyrene and 4-nitroquinoline 1-oxide . Note that these are not randomized controlled trials done with human participants, and therefore, the results of these studies may not be directly applicable to human use.

If added to a topical preparation of ascorbic acid and vitamin E, ferulic acid may reduce oxidative stress and formation of thymine dimers in skin .


As a precursor to vanillin

Ferulic acid, being highly abundant, may be useful as a precursor in the manufacturing of vanillin, a synthetic flavoring agent often used in place of natural vanilla extract . However, biotechnological processes may be the most efficient method to use ferulic acid as a precursor , and as such, research is still ongoing.

Mass spectrometry

It is used as a matrix for proteins in MALDI mass spectroscopy analyses.

See also


  1. Shahadi, Fereidoon; Naczk, Marian Phenolics in food and nutraceuticals. Florida, USA: CRC Press LLC.
  2. Antiproliferative and apoptotic effects of selective phenolic acids on T47D human breast cancer cells: potential mechanisms of action. Breast Cancer Res. 2004; 6(2: R63-74. Epub 2003 Dec 15;
  3. Role of NADPH oxidase-mediated generation of reactive oxygen species in the mechanism of apoptosis induced by phenolic acids in HepG2 human hepatoma cells. Arch Pharm Res. 2005 Oct; 28(10): 1183-9;
  4. Protective effects of ellagic acid and other plant phenols on benzo[a]pyrene-induced neoplasia in mice. Carcinogenesis. 1983 Dec; 4(12): 1651-3;
  5. Chemopreventive effects of ferulic acid on oral and rice germ on large bowel carcinogenesis. Anticancer Res. 1999 Sep-Oct; 19(5A): 3775-8;
  6. Ferulic acid stabilizes a solution of vitamins C and E and doubles its photoprotection of skin. J Invest Dermatol. 2005 Oct; 125(4): 826-32;
  7. Ferulic acid: an antioxidant found naturally in plant cell walls and feruloyl esterases involved in its release and their applications. Crit Rev Biotechnol. 2004; 24(2-3): 59-83;
  8. Biotechnological production of vanillin. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2001 Aug; 56(3-4): 296-314;
  9. Beavis, R. C.; Chait, B. T., Cinnamic Acid Derivatives as Matrices for Ultraviolet Laser Desorption Mass Spectrometry of Proteins. Rapid Commun. Mass Spectrom. 1989, 3, 432-435;

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