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Title: Arbutin  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Anal bleaching, Bergenia crassifolia, Monosaccharides, Light skin in Japanese culture, Arctostaphylos glauca
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


IUPAC name
(2R,3S,4S,5R,6S)-2-Hydroxymethyl-6- (4-hydroxyphenoxy)oxane-3,4,5-triol
Other names
Hydroquinone β-D-glucopyranoside
ChemSpider  Y
Jmol-3D images Image
RTECS number CE8663000
Molar mass 272.25 g·mol−1
Appearance colorless to white powder
Melting point 199.5 °C (391.1 °F; 472.7 K)
Boiling point 561.6
5.0 g/100 mL
Solubility soluble in alcohol
slightly soluble in ethyl ether
insoluble in benzene, chloroform, CS2
log P -1.35
Vapor pressure almost 0 (25 °C)
Safety data sheet Sigma-Aldrich
NFPA 704
Flash point 293.4 °C (560.1 °F; 566.6 K)
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
 N  (: Y/N?)

Arbutin is a glycoside; a glycosylated hydroquinone extracted from the bearberry plant in the genus Arctostaphylos. It inhibits tyrosinase and thus prevents the formation of melanin. Arbutin is therefore used as a skin-lightening agent. Arbutin is found in wheat, and is concentrated in pear skins. It is also found in Bergenia crassifolia.[1] Arbutin was also produced by an in vitro culture of Schisandra chinensis.[2]


  • Production 1
  • Folk medicine 2
  • Skin lightening agent 3
    • Risks 3.1
  • References 4


Pure arbutin can be prepared synthetically from the reaction of acetobromoglucose and hydroquinone in the presence of alkali.[3]

Folk medicine

Bearberry, which contains arbutin, is a traditional treatment for urinary tract infections.[4]

Skin lightening agent

Bearberry extract is used in skin lightening treatments designed for long term and regular use. An active agent in brands of skin lightening preparations, it is more expensive than traditional skin lightening ingredients like hydroquinone, which is now banned in many countries. In vitro studies of human melanocytes exposed to arbutin at concentrations below 300 μg/mL reported decreased tyrosinase activity and melanin content with little evidence of cytotoxicity.[5]


Arbutin is glucosylated hydroquinone,[6] and may carry similar cancer risks,[7] although there are also claims that arbutin reduces cancer risk.[8] The German Institute of Food Research in Potsdam found that intestinal bacteria can transform arbutin into hydroquinone, which creates an environment favorable for intestinal cancer.[9]


  1. ^ Carmen Pop, Laurian Vlase, Mircea Tamas (2009). "Natural Resources Containing Arbutin. Determination of Arbutin in the Leaves of Bergenia crassifolia (L.) Fritsch. acclimated in Romania". Not. Bot. Hort. Agrobot. Cluj 37 (1): 129–132. 
  2. ^ Dusková J, Dusek J, Jahodár L, Poustka F. (2005). "[Arbutin, salicin: the possibilities of their biotechnological production]". Ceska Slov Farm. 54 (2): 78–81. 
  3. ^ PubChem - Arbutin
  4. ^ Garrett, J. T. (2003). The Cherokee Herbal: Native Plant Medicine from the Four Directions. Bear & Company. p. 209.  
  5. ^ Arbutin, Supporting Nomination for Toxicological Evaluation by the National Toxicology Program
  6. ^ O'Donoghue, J L (September 2006). "Hydroquinone and its analogues in dermatology – a risk-benefit viewpoint". Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology 5 (3): 196–203.  
  7. ^ Treatment of hyperpigmentation problems / skin lightening
  8. ^ Bowman, Lee. July 25, 2005. Scripps Howard News Service. High yuck factor not necessarily good for us anymore
  9. ^ Blaut M, Braune A, Wunderlich S, Sauer P, Schneider H, Glatt H (2006). "Mutagenicity of arbutin in mammalian cells after activation by human intestinal bacteria". Food Chem. Toxicol. 44 (11): 1940–7.  
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