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Selected Publication:

Type of publication: Journal Article
Type of document: Review

Year: 2010

Authors: Novak, J

Title: Arbutin - a risk substance in herbs.

Source: Z Arznei- Gewurzpflanzen (15), 4 170-173.

Authors Vetmeduni Vienna:

Novak Johannes

Vetmed Research Units
Institute of Animal Nutrition and Functional Plant Compounds

Arbutin is a hydroguinone glycoside, which is accumulated in many plant species. Especially common bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi L.), bergenia (Bergenia spp.) and myrothamnus (Myrothamnus flabellifolia Welw.) are able to accumulate arbutin in higher contents. In herbs the occurrence of arbutin is restricted to some oregano (Origanum spp.) and thyme (Thymus spp., only in minor amounts), but can reach higher contents in marjoram (Origanum majorana L.). The variability of arbutin within marjoram is enormous. Therefore it would be possible to select low arbutin marjoram easily, but it will not be possible to select arbutin-free marjoram just by using its natural variability. However, to breed arbutin-free marjoram would be possible with considerable effort by artificial hybridization with e.g. Origanum vulgare free of arbutin followed by backcrosses with marjoram. The aglycone hydroquinone has strong antibacterial activity but is also regarded in higher dosage as liver- and nephrotoxic as well as mutagenic. Because of these negative aspects of hydroquinone safety of arbutin is always under discussion and some additional studies will be necessary for a correct safety assessment. The content in marjoram will probably not be regarded as unsafe in its traditional use as kitchen herb. However, in context with the fact that arbutin is present frequently in our daily diet (pears, wheat products etc.) arbutin intake should probably be limited wherever possible.

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