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Antioxidant, anticancer, anti-inflammatory,1 antimicrobial,2 cardioprotective, neuroprotective, hepatoprotective, photoprotective, skin lightening3

Important Chemical Components:

Also known as 4-hydroxy-3-methoxycinnamic acid as well as 3-(4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)-2-propenoic acid, its molecular formula is C10H10O4.

Origin Classification:

Natural ingredient; organic forms are possible. It can also be chemically synthesized in the laboratory

Personal Care Category:

Antioxidant, antiaging, photoprotection

Recommended for the following Baumann Skin Types:



Ferulic acid (4-hydroxy-3-methoxycinnamic acid) is pervasive in the plant world, present as it is in the cell walls of numerous plants, including grains, fruit, and vegetables where it is conjugated with mono-, di-, and polysaccharides and other compounds (Table 54-1).4–7 Derived from the metabolism of phenylalanine and tyrosine,5,8 ferulic acid is known to be prevalent in whole grains (e.g., rice, wheat, barley, oats, and sorghum), spinach, parsley, grapes, olives, rhubarb, tomatoes, asparagus, peas, artichokes, eggplant, pineapples, berries, and maize bran.1,5,8,9 Ferulic acid is also a key component in propolis, a product of honeybee hives (see Chapter 60, Honey/Propolis/Royal Jelly).10 In addition, it is found along with several other polyphenols in hops used in beer.11,12 Ferulic acid is also one of the main active components in several herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), including Angelica sinensis, which is used to treat various skin traumas in TCM.1,6,13

TABLE 54-1Pros and Cons of Ferulic Acid


Ferulic acid was first isolated and identified by Hlasiwetz and Barth in Innsbruck, Austria in 1866.8 Other than an 1891 report on the isolation of the compound from Pinus laricio (Corsican pine), little research on ferulic acid was published until 1925, when it was chemically synthesized from vanillin with malonic acid.8,14 The stereochemistry of ferulic acid was determined in 1976 by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and confirmed in 1988 by X-ray crystallographic analysis.8 Investigations, particularly in vitro, regarding the potential health benefits of ferulic acid have since become commonplace.

In a 1983 study on the inhibitory effects of three phenolic compounds on neoplasia in mice, ferulic acid was active against lung carcinogenesis but completely ineffective against skin tumor formation.15 Since that time, however, much evidence has emerged regarding the oral and topical benefits of ferulic acid against skin cancer. The inhibitory effects of the topical application and oral administration ...

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