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July 18, 2013 | By:  Mathew Pregasen
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Tannic Acid: Friend or Foe?

Tannic Acid is quite a colossal molecule, relatively speaking. Its molecular formula is a substantial C72H52O46 with a molecular mass of 1701 grams/mole. And even so, it has a considerable appearance, turning pond water murky and brownish giving a sense of eerie cloudiness. But what exactly is Tannic Acid and how does it affect us and living organisms as a whole?

Tannic Acid is found in nutgalls, the swelling of trees caused by parasitic wasps. However, the most common occurrence of Tannic Acid is in the twigs of certain trees, specifically Chestnut and Oak trees. Decomposition of trees around bodies of water often leads to the direct colorization of the water giving it a swampy look with limited visibility. Thus, the excess of Tannic Acid is such organic matter inevitably leads to a changing environment for all the organisms around the area, especially those of the aquatic species. Known colloquially as "cola water", the solution of Tannic Acid and water expectably reduces the pH level below 7, leading to a far more acidic environment. Although pH changes may be common in highly wooded areas, a sudden drop in the pH has adverse consequences. This may be the case following a collapse of a tree into the water. Even for fish that can survive or even thrive in acidic conditions, the shift in the pH is often too sudden to sustain a constant population!

While Tannic Acid may have a negative effect on the environment as a whole, its uses on the human population have been mainly positive. It has been used as an antidote to soak up poisons historically. In the common day, however, Tannic Acid is used to stop bleeding, treat rashes, and alleviate other conditions of soreness. It is used orally to prevent throat infections and other internal alleviations. Yet all of these common uses have been for short term conditions. Rather, what is Tannic Acid's use for other long term, more serious conditions?

The research is still being developed but there is considerable evidence that Tannic Acid may be more than just a reliever to day to day symptoms. There is evidence that Tannic Acid blocks out the CXCR4 receptor in cells. CXCR4 is a very powerful mediator of metastasis and hence often leads to the proliferation of cancerous cells in a person's body when unchecked. Thus, Tannic Acid may completely stop the spread of cancer. This light of hope, however, possesses a main problem. Stomach acid breaks down Tannic Acid which is why it can only be used for short term alleviations of internal symptoms. Using Tannic Acid for a complete ceasing of cancer is quite an undertaking due to the lack of methodology in medicating such composition to the cancerous cells. This unfortunate inhibition would necessitate more research to establish a method to induce Tannic Acid to a cancer patient. That is not to say that it won't be possible: the immense amount of medical procedures would predict a high probability of success in regards to Tannic Acid and cancer treatment. But is there anything else of use for Tannic Acid?

Of course there is. The possibilities are always endless. But a specific case of intriguing interest is that of type II diabetes and its correlation to obesity. Often obesity causes type II diabetes. But ironically, medication for type II diabetes also leads to weight gain. As a consequence, medication for diabetes perpetuates another factor of diabetes itself. This cyclic relationship is a major problem with present day type II diabetic medicine. Tannic Acid, however, has shown considerable likelihood of inhibiting the pathway between these two factors, hence making medication for type II diabetes less likely to trigger obesity, increasing its availability and reducing its average cost (Liu). Tannic Acid's severing of the tie between these two factors would allow safe medication to type II diabetes without risking other harmful side effects.

With all of this in mind, Tannic Acid has great potential for modern day medicine. The murky conditions of the swamp may prove a natural disastrous effect on aquatic populations; however, the common uses of Tannic Acid for human medication are detailed and vast in quantity. The use of Tannic Acid as a common medicine coupled with its relation to diabetic medicine will spur new investments into the extraction of Tannic Acid and awareness to its use in the medical arena. And who knows? Maybe the high potential of Tannic Acid as a cancer treatment may become a reality one day.


Boumis, Robert. "HOW DOES TANNIC ACID AFFECT AQUARIUMS?" Animals. Digital Media, n.d. Web. 25 June 2013.

Kurosawa, Grouppe. "Tannic Acid and Cancer Prevention." Natural Medicine Blog. infoisus, 31 May 2005. Web. 25 June 2013.

Liu, L., et al. "Tannic acid stimulates glucose transport and inhibits adipocyte differentiation in 3T3-L1 cells." The Journal of Nutrition 2 (2005): 165-71. Print.

Pregasen, Mathew. "Tannic Acid." Polyhydroxyphenols. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 June 2013.

"Tannic Acid." WebMD. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 June 2013.

Image credits: Top: Ronhjones (via Wikimedia Commons); Bottom: Rasbak (via Wikimedia Commons).

July 18, 2013 | 09:19 PM
Posted By:  Kristopher Hite`
The structure of tannic acid reminds me of the structure of humic acid. Organic farmers and home composters alike often use humic acid to amend their soil as the dangling carboxyl groups make it great tool to increase the ion-exchange capacity of otherwise poor clay soils. Do you know if tannic acid is used as a soil or compost amendment? It seems like it would be a cheap and abundant alternative.
July 18, 2013 | 08:47 PM
Posted By:  Carrie Lopez
Mathew, way to make tannic acid an interesting topic! Dr. P would be proud.
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