In the present investigation, we compared the radical-scavenging activities and phenolic contents of seven Taiwanese Cirsium
species with a spectrophotometric method. We further analyzed their phytochemical profiles with high-performance liquid chromatography–photodiode array detection (HPLC–DAD). We found that the flower part of Cirsium japonicum
(CJF) showed the best radical-scavenging activities against 1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH), 2,2′-azino-bis(3-ethylbenzothiazoline-6-sulfonic acid) (ABTS), and the hypochlorite ion, for which the equivalents were 6.44 ± 0.17 mg catechin/g, 54.85 ± 0.66 mmol Trolox/g and 418.69 ± 10.52 mmol Trolox/g respectively. CJF also had the highest contents of total phenolics (5.23 ± 0.20 mg catechin/g) and phenylpropanoids (29.73 ± 0.72 mg verbascoside/g). According to the Pearson’s correlation coefficient, there was a positive correlation between the total phenylpropanoid content and ABTS radical-scavenging activities (r = 0.979). The radical-scavenging activities of the phenylpropanoids are closely related to their reducing power (r = 0.986). HPLC chromatograms obtained in validated HPLC conditions confirm that they have different phytochemical profiles by which they can be distinguished. Only CJF contained silicristin (0.66 ± 0.03 mg/g) and silydianin (9.13 ± 0.30 mg/g). CJF contained the highest contents of apigenin (5.56 ± 0.09 mg/g) and diosmetin (2.82 ± 0.10 mg/g). Among the major constituents, silicristin had the best radical-scavenging activities against DPPH (71.68 ± 0.66 mg catechin/g) and ABTS (3.01 ± 0.01 mmol Trolox/g). However, diosmetin had the best reducing power and radical-scavenging activity against the hypochlorite anion (41.57 ± 1.14 mg mmol Trolox/g). Finally, we found that flavonolignans (especial silicristin and silydianin) and diosmetin acted synergistically in scavenging radicals.
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