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    Author(s): Richard W. Hemingway
    Date: 1998
    Source: Journal of Natural Products.61(11): 1454-1455.
    Publication Series: Miscellaneous Publication
    PDF: Download Publication  (27 KB)


    Hemingway’s book review brings into focus Edwin Haslam's career, devoted to defining the significance of plant polyphenols. That historical perspective focuses on the progress made in this science over the last 30 years. Most important, this book demonstrates the myriad ways that plant polyphe­nols influence our lives. Professor Haslam makes a strong argument for continued study of intermolecular association of plant polyphenols with other biopolymers. The very selective treatment of the structure and biosynthesis of condensed and hydrolyzable tannins starts the book out on a slow pace. There is virtually no discussion of the chemistry of commercially important wattle or quebracho tannins and references to chestnut tannins are scarce. Haslam’s insights on molecular recognition and the interaction of plant polyphenols with other com­pounds are keen, and he challenges his readers to take up the task of learning more about how plant polyphenols interact with other biopolymers to express biological activity.

    Professor Haslam's book continues to gain strength as he deals with the role of plant polyphenols in taste, bitterness, and astringency, and the chemistry underlying the "maturation" of those properties in foods. He engages the reader in discussions of the chemistry that might be considered the most important commercial and ecological aspects of these compounds. Haslam takes the reader through a series of analyses of the significance of plant polyphenols in foods and beverages. Especially interesting is his treatment of teas, associations between polyphenols and caffeine, and the oxidation and complexation of condensed tannins with proteins to define the properties of chocolate. The discussion of persimmon tannins and their use in Japan for a wide array of applications (including the removal of proteins from sake!) once more highlights the important associations between plant polyphenols and other biopolymers in their commercial use. Haslam includes an interesting analysis of competitive binding of tannins to carbohydrates and pro­teins as an explanation for the loss of astringency in ripening of fruits. That leads the reader into a valuable summary of the chemistry of carbohydrate gels and mech­anisms by which these gels can associate with and "en­capsulate" polyphenols. A similar mechanism is proposed for the sequestration of tea polyphenols by casein to explain the loss of astringency resulting from milk in the tea. This chapter concludes with an analysis of the chemistry that occurs in aging of wines and the significance of oak polyphenols on the quality of whiskey.

    Professor Haslam then changes focus to the visual rather than taste senses. Inter- and intramolecular recognition once again comes to the fore in providing an explanation of how more than 250 million colors can be produced from such a few basic anthocyanin chromophores. This chapter especially makes one appreci­ate the great impact molecular associations have on the quality of our lives. Favorite reading for many will lie in Chapters 7 and 8 because of the strong interest of the influence of plant polyphenols on human health. Professor Haslam has done well to stay with the fundamental science that supports the biological impacts of herbal medicines. Chapter 8 deals with perhaps the most important property of plant polyphe­nols, centering on their antioxidant properties and the chemistry of the oxidation of these extremely reactive compounds. Chapter 9 appropriately closes the book with a valuable analysis of the physical chemistry that explains the vegetable tanning process dating back at least 3000 years. Leather manufacture with vegetable tannins re­mains the predominant industrial use of these compounds, and they retain their market because of the high-quality heavy leather produced. Perhaps the earliest applications of intermolecular recognition and oxidation of o-quinones lie here. A reader cannot

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    Hemingway, Richard W. 1998. Practical polyphenolics: from structure to molecular recognition and physiological action, by Edwin Haslam.[Book review]. Journal of Natural Products.61(11): 1454-1455.

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