Coumarins are substances of food origin. The simplest representative of the coumarin group is coumarin. It is a white crystalline substance with a vanilla-like aroma.
Coumarins have a number of biological activities. Coumarins have a characteristic smell, which is why they are often used in perfumery. Coumarins in plants act as a natural pesticide that protects them from pests and insects.
Sources of coumarins
Coumarins are found in the dried yellow leaves, seeds and fruits of plants in the umbelliferae family.
Coumarins are widely distributed in nature in the families Legumes, Rosaceae, Lipaceae, fungi and bacteria. When the plants are dried, the alkaloids give them a pleasant smell of fresh hay.
Benefits of coumarins
Coumarins help thicken the walls of blood vessels and reduce their permeability. This prevents the formation of edema.
If the edemas are already present, coumarins help to remove them. This is due to the ability of coumarins to degrade high molecular weight proteins that have passed from the blood through the vessel walls and finally ended up in the perivascular tissues.
If these proteins are not broken down into lower molecular weight proteins that return to the bloodstream, they cause fluid retention and edema formation.
The use of diuretics has a temporary effect on edema, because these agents eliminate the edema fluid, but the high-molecular proteins that retain water remain in the perivascular tissues and very soon the edema forms again.
On the other hand, coumarins help control edema thanks to the improvement of lymphatic drainage. They support the functions of the heart.
Coumarins exert a vessel-cleansing effect on dangerous free radicals while protecting vessel walls from damage.
A significant role for their action is the suppression of the production of substances that cause inflammation. Such are leukotrienes and prostaglandins.
Last but not least, coumarins have a beneficial effect on blood quality, contributing to increasing the plasticity of erythrocytes, and also because of their good antithrombotic effect. Coumarins are also attributed with antitumor properties.
In general, one of the most important properties of coumarins is the prevention of excessive blood clotting and the formation of thrombi.
Harms from coumarins
Coumarins have a potentially toxic effect on the liver and kidneys, which is why its use as a food additive is highly restricted. However, it is perfectly safe to eat foods that naturally contain coumarins.