Tissue injury by reactive oxygen species and the protective effects of flavonoids

Fundam Clin Pharmacol. 1998;12(3):249-55. doi: 10.1111/j.1472-8206.1998.tb00951.x.


Reactive oxygen species contribute decisively to a great variety of diseases. Flavonoids are benzo-gamma-pyrone derivatives of plant origin found in various fruits and vegetables but also in tea and in red wine. Some of the flavonoids, such as quercetin and silibinin, can effectively protect cells and tissues against the deleterious effects of reactive oxygen species. Their antioxidant activity results from scavenging of free radicals and other oxidizing intermediates, from the chelation of iron or copper ions and from inhibition of oxidases. For their free radical scavenging properties, scavenging of lipid- and protein-derived radicals is presumably of special importance. A non-radical reactive oxygen species effectively trapped by flavonoids is hypochlorous acid. In general, the antioxidative properties of flavonoids are favoured by a high degree of OH substitution. On the other hand, inhibition of enzymatic functions other than oxidases, e.g., inhibition of lipoxygenase and thus prevention of the formation of leukotrienes, may also participate in the cell and tissue protective properties of flavonoids.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / chemistry
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Flavonoids / chemistry
  • Flavonoids / pharmacology*
  • Free Radicals
  • Humans
  • Liver / drug effects*
  • Liver / physiology
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / physiology*


  • Antioxidants
  • Flavonoids
  • Free Radicals
  • Reactive Oxygen Species