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Vij, T.; Anil, P.P.; Shams, R.; Dash, K.K.; Kalsi, R.; Pandey, V.K.; Harsányi, E.; Kovács, B.; Shaikh, A.M. Bioactive Compounds of Sappan Wood. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 25 June 2024).
Vij T, Anil PP, Shams R, Dash KK, Kalsi R, Pandey VK, et al. Bioactive Compounds of Sappan Wood. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed June 25, 2024.
Vij, Twinkle, Pawase Prashant Anil, Rafeeya Shams, Kshirod Kumar Dash, Rhythm Kalsi, Vinay Kumar Pandey, Endre Harsányi, Béla Kovács, Ayaz Mukarram Shaikh. "Bioactive Compounds of Sappan Wood" Encyclopedia, (accessed June 25, 2024).
Vij, T., Anil, P.P., Shams, R., Dash, K.K., Kalsi, R., Pandey, V.K., Harsányi, E., Kovács, B., & Shaikh, A.M. (2023, August 30). Bioactive Compounds of Sappan Wood. In Encyclopedia.
Vij, Twinkle, et al. "Bioactive Compounds of Sappan Wood." Encyclopedia. Web. 30 August, 2023.
Bioactive Compounds of Sappan Wood

Sappan wood (Caesalpinia sappan) is a tropical hardwood tree found in Southeast Asia. Sappan wood contains a water-soluble compound, which imparts a red color named brazilin. Sappan wood is utilized to produce dye for fabric and coloring agents for food and beverages, such as wine and meat. As a valuable medicinal plant, the tree is also known for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer properties. It has been observed that sappan wood contains various bioactive compounds, including brazilin, brazilein, sappan chalcone, and protosappanin A. It has also been discovered that these substances have various health advantages; they lower inflammation, enhance blood circulation, and are anti-oxidative in nature. Sappan wood has been used as a medicine to address a range of illnesses, such as gastrointestinal problems, respiratory infections, and skin conditions. Studies have also suggested that sappan wood may have anticarcinogenic potential as it possesses cytotoxic activity against cancer cells. 

sappan wood Brazilwood bioactive compounds

1. Introduction

Sappan wood is typically found in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. The scientific name of sappan wood is Caesalpinia sappan L. (genus Fabaceae), and it is also known as Sappan, Brazilwood, and Suou in diverse parts of the world. Southeast Asia, Malaysia, India, and Indonesia are home to the native variety of the tropical heartwood sappan tree, also known as the Indian Redwood [1][2]. Due to its commercial and cultural significance, sappan wood has been extensively harvested in many parts of Southeast Asia, leading to concerns about its sustainability. The tree is harvested every 6–8 years and when the trunk has attained 5–6 cm diameter. The tree is cut about 1 m above the ground to allow sprouts to grow from the stump. The main branches along with the stump are harvested. The average yield of inner pulp is about 80 kg/tree. Seeds can be harvested right from the second year of planting, but the heartwood is ready only after 6–12 years. A yield of 2000–2500 kg of pods may be obtained, which in turn may yield 200–250 kg of seeds per hectare. The harvested wood is chipped into pieces, and the dye is extracted by boiling them in water. While extracting, a few paddy grains are thrown into the boiling liquid to check the completion of the extraction process. If the husk scales are off, boiling is considered sufficient. The wood dye yield varies with varietal and cultural factors. To assure the long-term survival of this tree, campaigns are being launched to support ethical harvesting methods and protect its natural habitat [2]. This plant thrives at an elevation of 1000 m above sea level and is well suited for mountainous regions with moderate temperatures. It is a small tree, typically reaching a height of 5–10 m with a diameter of 15–25 cm. The trunk and branches are spiny and covered in reddish-brown hairs, while the stem is round and brownish-green in color. The flowers are arranged in panicles, which are terminal (at the ends of branches) and located in the axils of the upper leaves. The panicles measure about 30–40 cm in length, and the pedicles (flower stalks) are approximately 1.3–1.5 cm long. The stamens (male reproductive parts) are delicate, waxy-white, and have filaments that are densely woolly at the base. The pods, measuring 7–10 cm in length and 3.8–5 cm in width, are woody, slanted, and elongated [3].

Bottom of Form

Sappan wood has been used for various purposes for centuries, including as a natural dye, medicinal herb, and in traditional medicine practices [4][5]. The heartwood contains a natural dye called brazilin, which produces a range of red hues. Sappan wood has also been used for dyeing textiles made from using silk and cotton, producing high-quality furniture and decorative items, and coloring foods, like rice and noodles, in Southeast Asia. Additionally, the dye is employed in the food business to tend items like cheese, smoked fish, and meat [6][7]. Sappan wood has been used in traditional medicine practices for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties. Many diseases, including cough, fever, gastrointestinal issues, and skin conditions, have all been treated with it [8]. Additionally, it has been employed as a blood cleanser and astringent [3][9].
The United States Department of Agriculture states that the Caesalpinia sappan L. classification is as follows: Kingdom (Plantae), Subkingdom (Tracheobionta), Division (Magnoliophyta), Class (Magnoliopsida), Order (Fabales), Family (Fabaceae—pea family), Genus (Caesalpinia L.), Species (Caesalpinia sappan L.—Sappan wood) [10]. Caesalpinia sappan L. has different vernacular names in different regions varying by language, including English (sappan wood), Tamil (Patungam), Hindi (Bakam), Telugu (Vakama), Malayalam (Sappanam, Pathimukham), Sanskrit (Patrangah, Patangah), Kannada (Chappanga), and Gujarati (Patang) [11]. The sappan wood plant is a small tree with a spherical and brownish-green stem, pubescent rufous limbs, and a height of 5 to 10 m. This wood is excellent for turning and also yields a crimson dye. It is hard, weighty, prickly, hefty, and orange-red. After a year of growth, fruit production can begin, typically during the rainy season. Flowering can then occur after about six months. Due to its cultural and economic significance, sappan wood has been designated as a state tree in some Indian states, including Kerala and Tamil Nadu [11]. Due to overharvesting and habitat loss, sappan wood is regarded as a threatened species in many areas of Southeast Asia. Efforts are underway to promote sustainable harvesting practices and conserve this tree’s natural habitats. Some countries have also established protected areas to preserve sappan wood populations. Using sappan wood for dyeing fabric has a long history in Southeast Asia. In some countries, such as Thailand, the traditional dyeing process using sappan wood is still practiced today [12].

2. Bioactive Compounds of Sappan Wood

The phytochemical composition of sappan wood has been studied extensively, and it has been found that it contains various bioactive compounds. The major constituents of sappan wood are flavonoids, phenolic acids, and anthraquinones. The major metabolites recognized from Caesalpinia sappan L. with identified chemical structures are presented in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Major metabolites recognized from Caesalpinia sappan with identified chemical structures.
Other substances found in sappan wood, in addition to flavonoids and phenolic ones, are triterpenoids, steroids, alkaloids, saponins, and tannins. Many different biological actions, such as anti-inflammation, anticancer, and antioxidant characteristics, are exhibited by the class of polyphenolic compounds and have been connected to several health benefits [13]. Several structurally unique phenolic components, such as brazilin, xanthone, one coumarin, chalcones, flavones, and homo isoflavonoids, are present in sappan wood [14][15]. The different bioactive compounds present in sappan wood are illustrated in Table 1.

2.1. Flavonoids

The flavonoids found in sappan wood are brazilin, haematoxylin, and protosappanin. Sappan wood includes conjugated aromatic benzene groups as mentioned above; flavonoid compounds are hypothesized to be able to block UV (ultraviolet) rays, protecting skin from exposure to the sun. The flavonoids in sappan wood have the potential to be used as sunscreens [19]. The content of flavonoid and anthocyanin components in sappan wood extract (Caesalpinia sappan L.) was studied. The five concentration levels used in this experiment were 20%, 40%, 60%, 80%, and 100%. Fifteen experimental units were produced after three iterations of the study. The information was shown using tables, illustrations, and descriptive statistics. The analysis revealed that the sappan wood extract had a flavonoid content of 6.02% and an anthocyanin content of 2.43% [20].

2.2. Phenolic Acids

Phenolic acids are found in a variety of plant species and have been connected to several health benefits, including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Sappan wood contains numerous phenolic acids, including chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, and gallic acid [21]. During research, sappan wood extract from Bone Regency, South Sulawesi Province, was extracted using ultrasonic-assisted solvent extraction (ultrasonic extraction), with water serving as the solvent. The content of polyphenols in this extract was then determined. The Follin–Ciocalteu visible spectrophotometer was employed, with pH conditions of 6, 7, and 8. The results show that the polyphenol content of sappan wood at three pH values was 34.33% (pH 6), 13.70% (pH 7), and 12.66% (pH 8). The analysis findings show that pH 6 has the highest polyphenol level and that as pH increases, polyphenol content decreases [22].

2.3. Anthraquinones

Various pharmacological actions, such as antimicrobial, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory properties, have been linked to a family of organic compounds known as anthraquinones. Sappan wood contains several anthraquinones, including brazilin, brazilein, and sappanone A [23]. Anthroquinones, also known as simple anthrones or bianthrones, are chemical compounds. The free anthraquinone aglycones do not have much of a therapeutic effect. The sugar residue makes it easier for the aglycone to be absorbed and transported to the region of action. Anthraquinones and associated glycosides are stimulant cathartics that work by making the smooth muscle of the large intestinal wall more toned. The large intestine is where the glycosides are expelled after being reabsorbed from the small intestine, where they induce irritation of the colon mucosa and promote motility to have a laxative effect. In conclusion, rats responded to dosages of Caesalpinia sappan L. wood extracts by becoming laxative. All extracts except for ethanolic extract were shown to be more powerful and to only display a dose-dependent laxative effect in a drug-induced constipation paradigm. In models with low-fiber diets, all extracts showed equivalent effectiveness [24].

2.4. Triterpenoids and Steroids

The class of organic compounds known as terpenoids is found in plants and has been shown to have a variety of pharmacological effects, such as anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial characteristics. Sappan wood contains several triterpenoids, including lupeol, β-amyrin, and cycloartenol [25]. Steroids are a different family of organic compounds widely distributed in the plant kingdom and exhibit various biological activities, such as anticancer and anti-inflammatory characteristics. Sappan wood contains several steroids, including stigmasterol and β-sitosterol [26].

2.5. Alkaloids and Tannins

Alkaloids are biological complexes that contain nitrogen and are present in a variety of plant species. They demonstrate a variety of pharmacological effects, such as analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer characteristics. Sappan wood contains several alkaloids, including sappan chalcone and sappanone B [27]. Sappan chalcone has been demonstrated to have effects on the growth of human prostate cancer cells, and sappanone B has been demonstrated to have effects on inflammation by suppressing the production of proinflammatory cytokines [26]. Tannins are polyphenolic substances that are frequently present in plants and are responsible for giving them an astringent flavor. Sappan wood contains condensed tannins, sometimes proanthocyanidins, and hydrolyzable tannins, such as ellagic acid and gallic acid. Syamsunarno et al. [28] stated that the diverse range of phytochemical compounds found in sappan wood may have an extensive range of potential well-being advantages. More research is necessary to completely comprehend the compounds’ pharmacological actions and their potential therapeutic uses. During a study, the bark of the tree was successively extracted with n-hexane, ethyl acetate, methanol, and hot water before being analyzed with GC-MS to determine its total phenolic content (TPC), total flavonoid content (TFC), and total tannin content (TTC) as well as its antioxidant activity (DPPH scavenging activity). The methanol extract of the bark had the greatest concentrations of TPC (824.1662 ± 28 mg GAE/g), TFC (185.031 ± 91 mg QE/g), and TTC (987.0730 ± 98 mg TAE/g) [29].


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