• Phenolic acids;
  • pyrocatechol;
  • willow bark;
  • HPTLC;
  • HPLC;
  • comet assay


Introduction – Salicis Cortex, made from willow bark is a herbal remedy, which is standardised based on the content of salicin, a compound with analgesic and antiphlogistic properties. However, clinical trials suggest that other compounds also present in Salicis Cortex can contribute to the pharmacological effects.

Objective – To characterise the composition of phenolic acids in the barks of different species and clones from the genus Salix by use of chromatographic methods—HPTLC and HPLC.

Methodology – The phenolic acid composition was analysed by MGD (multiple gradient development)–HPTLC technique. The separation was performed on HPTLC Diol plates with gradient elution using a mixture of chloroform:hexane:ethyl acetate with increasing concentration of ethyl acetate from 10 to 25%. Derivatisation with thymol reagent was employed for the first time for specific detection of phenolic acids containing methoxyl groups.

Results – The presence of all phenolic acids previously reported in the genus Salix was confirmed, namely p-hydroxybenzoic, vanillic, cinnamic, p-coumaric, ferulic and caffeic acids. Furthermore, pyrocatechol as a constituent of willow bark was revealed. The highest concentration of this compound was observed in the S. purpurea bark (2.25 mg/g).

Conclusion – The presence of a relatively high content of pyrocatechol in Salix species may raise doubts about the safe application of this herbal medicine. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.