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A Comprehensive Review of Phytochemistry and Biological Activities of Quercus Species

Residency Department, “George Emil Palade” University of Medicine, Pharmacy, Sciences and Technology of Târgu Mureș, 38 Gheorghe Marinescu Street, Târgu Mureș, 540139 Mureș, Romania
Department of Pharmaceutical Botany, “George Emil Palade” University of Medicine, Pharmacy, Sciences and Technology of Târgu Mureș, 38 Gheorghe Marinescu Street, Târgu Mureș, 540139 Mureș, Romania
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors share the first authorship.
Forests 2020, 11(9), 904;
Submission received: 20 July 2020 / Revised: 10 August 2020 / Accepted: 17 August 2020 / Published: 19 August 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biorenewable Forest-Based Materials)


The Quercus genus provides a large amount of biomaterial with many applications in fields like pharmaceutics, cosmetics, and foodstuff areas. Due to the worldwide dissemination of the genus, many species were used for centuries in traditional healing methods or in the wine maturing process. This review aims to bring together the results about phytoconstituents from oak extracts and their biological applicability as antioxidants, antimicrobial, anticancer, etc. The literature data used in this paper were collected via PubMed, Scopus, and Science Direct (2010–June 2020). The inclusion criteria were papers published in English, with information about phytoconstituents from Quercus species (leaves, bark and seeds/acorns) and biological activities such as antioxidant, antibacterial, antiobesity, anti-acne vulgaris, antifungal, anticancer, antiviral, antileishmanial, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory. The exclusion criteria were the research of other parts of the Quercus species (e.g., galls, wood, and twigs); lack of information about phytochemistry and biological activities; non-existent Quercus species reported by the authors. The most studied Quercus species, in terms of identified biomolecules and biological activity, are Q. brantii, Q. infectoria and Q. robur. The Quercus species have been reported to contain several phytoconstituents. The main bioactive phytochemicals are phenolic compounds, volatile organic compounds, sterols, aliphatic alcohols and fatty acids. The, Quercus species are intensely studied due to their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anticancer activities, provided by their phytochemical composition. The general conclusion is that oak extracts can be exploited for their biological activity and can be used in research fields, such as pharmaceutical, nutraceutical and medical.

1. Introduction

The Quercus genus is an evergreen or deciduous tree, belonging to the Fagaceae family. These genus contain about 450 species and represent an important tree group widespread in Europe, Asia, North Africa, North, Central and South America. The white oaks (section Quercus), live oaks (series Virentes) golden cup or intermediate oaks (section Protobalanus) and red oaks (section Lobatae) are present in America. The cycle cup oaks (subgenus Cyclobalanopsis) are found in Asia and the white oaks along with black oaks (section Cerris) are extended into Eurasia [1,2,3].
Quercus species are widespread in Northern Hemisphere, in temperate seasonally dry forests, and tend to be distributed in well-drained upland areas and often in montane areas and some species are able to tolerate some degree of flooding (Q. lyrata and Q. laurifolia). The most common deciduous broad-leaved trees are Q. ilex, Q. dentata, Q. acutisssima, Q. variabilis, Q. acuta, Q. glauca, Q. serrata and Q. salicina. The most studied oaks are the European oaks, principally Q. robur (english oak) and Q. petraea (sessile oak or durmast oak) [4,5].
The Quercus species produce a universally known fruit (acorn) and, together with bark and leaves, has been used in traditional medicine, applied as antiseptic or in gastrointestinal disorders. Due to their nutritional role acorns are used as food for both humans and animals. The oak wood has important role in wine maturation in oak barrels and in the wood industry for the wood color, durability, and protection against fungal decay [1,6,7,8].
Large areas of oak forests (Europe, Asia, North Africa, North America, Central and South America), large amounts of forest waste (oak bark and leaves) resulting from wood processing, high availability and their drought resistance make Quercus species important sources of bioactive compounds. In the same time, the diversity of folk uses and the richness of phytochemicals found in Quercus species make this genus interesting for assessing biological activities and toxicological effects.
The aim of this review is to update the literature data (2010–June 2020) about phytochemistry and biological activities of Quercus species and to discuss their potential as antioxidants, antimicrobials, anti-inflammatories, and other activities.

2. Phytochemistry

The Quercus species have been reported to contain several phytoconstituents with significant differences between species due to the high variability. Even so, there are some classes of compounds that are ubiquitous in all Quercus species (Figure 1). The main bioactive phytochemicals are phenolic compounds, commonly found as glycosides [9]. Other compounds that can be found in Quercus species are volatile organic compounds, vitamins (especially vitamin E), sterols, aliphatic alcohols and fatty acids [9,10].
Phenolic compunds (Figure 2) are one of the largest groups of secondary metabolites in the plants with great importance due to their occurrence and the pharmacological properties [11]. These compounds show a large diversity of structures from simple molecules (e.g., phenolic acids) to polyphenols (e.g., stilbenes, flavonoids, and derived polymers) [12]. These compounds protect the plants against some herbivores and affect positively mammals (humans included) due to the antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anticarcinogenic activities [13]. Even though, phenolic compounds display a large variety of biological activities, most of them are secondary effects of the antioxidant activity, which has several proposed mechanisms of actions. The general idea is that phenolic compounds may provide an electron to be donated or the whole hydrogen atom, from the O–H bond, to be transferred to free radical molecules, thus transforming the free radicals into harmless species. This process also transforms the phenolic into a radical, with an odd electron, but because of the aromatic structure the odd electron has the possibility to be spread over the entire molecule, resulting in a radical stabilization [14].
The investigation of phenolic compounds Quercus species shows their presence in all organs (leaves, bark, and acorn). There is a complex variation in the production of individual phenolic compounds across Quercus species. Significant differences exist between absolute and relative concentration of polyphenols. For example, the ellagitannin production in white Quercus leaves may be characterized as products of castalagin and vescalagin [15], whereas in the black Quercus species these compounds are in relatively lower amounts without derivatives. These differences between oak phenolic compounds explain ecological differences between species [15].
The phenolic compounds identified in the Quercus species are mostly flavonoid and non-flavonoid phenolic constituents that intermediate the phenylpropanoid metabolism by shikimate pathway [16]. The resulting hydroxycinnamic acids and esters participate in reductase, oxygenase and transferase processes, resulting in a characteristic pattern of secondary metabolites for each plant species. For example, flavan-3-ols, flavonols and acylated kaempferol glucosides were identified and quantified in Q. ilex extracts [17]. Below, the main bioactive compounds present in the Quercus genus, at the level of bark, leaves and acorns, will be presented.
The main phenolic compounds identified in the leaves of Quercus species (Table 1) are phenolic acids (e.g., gallic acid, ellagic acid, protocatechuic acid, gentisic acid, chlorogenic acid, vanillic acid, syringic acid, caffeic acid, p-coumaric acid, and ferulic acid), flavonoids (e.g., rutin, quercetin, epicatechin, naringenin, hesperetin, formononetin, naringin, kaempferol) or tannins. These compounds are identified especially in the leaves of Q. glauca, Q. incana, Q. ilex, Q. mongolica, Q. salicina, Q. petraea, and Q. robur [18,19,20] with differences between the quantities of each compound. In the leaves of Q. resinosa the presence of epicatechin, vanilin, p-coumaric acid, benzoic acid, salicylic acid, syringic acid, gallic acid, p-hydroxybenzoic acid, catechin, vanillic acid, chlorogenic acid, 4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzoic acid, and caffeic acid have been shown [21].
The Quercus bark can be considered a possible renewable source of bioactive compounds due to the large quantities of polyphenols. The main phenolic compounds identified in Quercus bark extracts (Table 1) are phenolic acids (e.g., caffeic acid, ellagic acid, gallic acid, and protocatechuic acid), tannins (ellagitannins, roburins) and flavonoids. The Quercus species in which the phenolic profile of the bark extracts was analyzed are Q. acutissima, Q. alba, Q. macrocarpa, Q. petraea, Q. robur and Q. sideroxyla (Table 1). Hosam et al. [22] showed the presence in bark extracts of catechin, caffeic acid, ellagic acid, epicatechin, epigallocatechin, epigallocatechin gallate, gallic acid, and in Q. acutissima, the presence of caffeic acid, ellagic acid, epicatechin, epigallocatechin, gallic acid and protocatechuic acid in Q. macrocarpa and the presence of catechin, ellagic acid, gallic acid, protocatechuic acid and vanillic acid in Q. robur [22].
The Quercus species produce a widely known fruit, identified as an acorn [9]. Traditionally, acorns have been used in animal feed. The nutritional value and the high content in phytochemical compounds with biological activity led to the use of acorns in the human diet [23]. There are a considerable number of publications dedicated to phenolic compounds in acorns, which are integrated in the review of Vinha et al. [23]. The main phenolic compounds identified in Quercus acorns extracts are phenolic acids (gallic acid, ellagic acid, and their derivatives), flavonoids (quercetin, catechin, naringin) and tannins. These compounds have been identified in acorns of Q. brantii, Q. floribunda, Q. glauca, Q. incana, Q. mongolica, Q. robur (Table 1). Thus, it is reported that Quercus acorns had an important content of carbohydrates, amino acids, proteins, lipids, and various sterols [24]. The terpenoid metabolites are involved in plant growth and development but predominantly for more specialized chemical interactions and protection in the abiotic and biotic environment [25]. For example, terpenes like α-thujene, α-pinene, camphene, sabinene, α-pinene, myrcene, β-phellandrene, α-terpinene, limonene, cis-β-ocimene, trans-β-ocimene, γ-terpinene, p-cymene, linalool, 3-methyl-3-buten-1-ol, 3-methyl-3-buten-1-yl acetate were identified in Q. ilex leaves [26] while β-amyrin, betulinic acid, lupeol, betulin oleanolic acid, hederangenin, corosolic acid, arjunic acid, were found in the sapwood of Q. faginea [27]. A study published in 2009 [28] showed that Q. robur emits a high amount of isoprene, but also low amounts of α-pinene, camphene, myrcene, β-pinene, in some cases 1,8-cineol and limonene could also be identified. Welter et al. [29] showed Q. canariensis almost exclusively emitted isoprene, while Q. suber exclusively emitted monoterpenes (mainly α-pinene, β-pinene, sabinene, myrcene and limonene), occasionally β-ocimene was identified in the emissions of both species, while traces of α-thujene, camphene, α-terpinene, γ-terpinene and terpinolene were found only in Q. suber [29].
The Quercus genus may also contain other compounds, like fatty acids, for example, palmitic, oleic and linoleic acids being the most abundant fatty acids in the acorns (Table 1). The kernel oil obtained from Q. robur and Q. cerris also rich in these fatty acids, stearic, arachidic and α-linolenic acids being also present, but in smaller quantities [30].
Other studies have shown that acorns may also contain vitamins (vitamin E and provitamin A) [9]. Rabhi et al. [31] showed that Q. ilex and Q. suber oils contain 2 vitamers of vitamin E, those being α-tocopherol and γ-tocopherol, the second being present in a significantly higher concentration. The same study analysed the content of sterols and aliphatic alcohols in Q. ilex and Q. suber, the major sterol being β-sitosterol followed by lower amounts of campesterol, stigmasterol, clerosterol, Δ5-avenasterol, Δ5,24-stigmastadienol, Δ7-stigmastenol and Δ7-avenasterol [31]. Similar compounds were identified in the sapwood of Q. faginea the most abundant aliphatic alcohol being docosanol followed by tetracosanol, octadecanol, pentacosanol, hexacosanol and hexadecanol, while the most abundant sterol was β-sitosterol; campesterol, stigmasterol, stigmastanol, γ-sitostenone and stigmastane-3,6-dione could also be identified in the sapwood of this species [27].

3. Biological Activity of Quercus Extracts

The ethnobotanical data show that Quercus spp. can be valuable plants, especially for the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders, skin and urinary tract infections (e.g., Q. ilex, Quercus oblongata D. Don) [32,33]. The Quercus acorns are edible (animal feed or human diet), astringent and diuretic, used in diarrhea, indigestion and asthma [23]. The wood can be used for timber, fuel or in agricultural tools (handles of plough, axes, gun buts, and walking sticks) [34,35]. Starting from ethnobotanical results, the researchers performed numerous experiments to demonstrate the biological activity of phytochemicals found in Quercus species.

3.1. Antioxidant Activity

Due to the biomolecules variety present in different parts of oaks, their power as an antioxidant and their beneficial aspects in multiple applications has been reported [36].
Some studies showed a highly and significant correlation between phenolic contents and antioxidant activity and that may be the reason for stronger radical scavenging activities [37]. Nedamani et al. [38] concluded that antioxidant activity showed by Q. brantii extract‘s reducing power is related to their total phenolic content, and Tuyen et al. [39] showed a strong correlation between phenolic content in Q. mongolica ssp. crispula leaves and bark extract and its antioxidant power. Many other studies showed the antioxidant effect of oak tannins in somatic cells beside other effects [40,41]. Kim et al. [42] reported that methanolic extract of Q. acuta showed the highest radical scavenging activity and total phenolic content, while the reducing power was the highest in the water extract. Along with the type of extract, it was showed that the radical scavenging activity was increased by increasing concentrations of Q. brantii leaf extract [43].
As to applicability, Ferreira et al. [44] revealed the protective effect of acorn extract of Q. ilex against oxidative degradation of lipids and proteins carbonylation. These effects are probably related to the intense antioxidant activity of polyphenols from acorns and so they may be used as preservatives in the alimentary industry, in nutraceutical and pharmacology activities. Another applicability of antioxidant power is noted by Horvathova et al. [45]. The Q. robur extract showed stimulation of antioxidant enzymes, decreasing damage to proteins and lipids, and a moderate increase in the total antioxidant capacity of plasma on human subjects. The authors concluded that the extract can be used as a natural supplement for improving the life quality in humans.
The most common antioxidant compounds in Quercus species are gallic and ellagic acid. Gallic acid (3,4,5-trihydroxybenzoic acidis) is a most popular phenolic compound, a natural antioxidant that is basically a secondary metabolite [46]. The ellagic acid is a polyphenol that occurs largely in woody eudicotyledons plants [47]. This phenolic acid is one of the highly investigated phytochemicals, with antioxidant, antimutagenic, and anticancer properties [48]. Thus, the antioxidant activity of Quercus extract can be attributed and to gallic and ellagic acid. Other common phenolic compounds from Quercus species are ellagitannins, including castalagin, vescalagin and roburin. It has been previously demonstrated that these compounds have potent antioxidant activity [49].

3.2. Antibacterial and Antifungal Activity

Since ancient times, the traditional use of oak bark in medicine field was well known and applied topically to burns and wounds to prevent infection, or applied orally for gastrointestinal diseases. The Quercus extract (especially bark extract) contains important antimicrobial compounds such as gallic acid, ellagic acid, vescalagin or castalagin [119,120]. Due to its history of antibacterial uses, Deryabin and Tolmacheva [101] used Q. robur cortex against Chromobacterium violaceum. The results showed an anti-quorum sensing effect determined by the extract’s bioactivity.
The antimicrobial activity is sustained by diverse results of experiments reported against Streptococcus aureus, Acinetobacter baumannii, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Thus, Q. alba bark extracts inhibited growth in the strains of Acinetobacter baumannii and growth of Staphylocccus epidermidis and showed antibiofilm activity against Staphylococcus aureus [54]. Not only the oak bark but the leaves of Q. brantii have antibacterial and antifungal activity, as shown by Tahmouzi [43]. Acorn extract of Q. brantii showed antifungal activity against vaginal candidiasis [60] and Q. floribunda acorn extract showed mildly antibacterial activity against Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumonie and Staphylococcus aureus.
The antibacterial and antifungal activity can be the result of extract type, harvesting time, oak tree species, and the instrument quality and measurement methods. Tayel et al. [86] showed the antifungal activity against Candida albicans of the Q. infectoria acorn ethanolic extract. The acorns are concentrated in tannins (ellagitannins) more than other parts of oak trees and the antibacterial and antifungal activity can be attributed to these compounds [76]. Tannins have been shown to inhibit growth in a wide range of bacteria, fungi and viruses, inactivating the microbial enzymes, sequestering essential metal ions in complexes and inhibition of membrane transport [121]. Zhou et al. [118] showed antibacterial activity of Q, variabilis acorn extract, destroying the bacteria‘s wall cell and inhibits their normal growth and cellular metabolism. Khairon et al. [79] showed the antibacterial activity against MRSA of Q, infectoria acorn water extract through the interference of various metabolisms and functions of the bacterial proteome. Tannins also act as biofilm inhibitors by binding to matrix proteins [122]. Chusri et al. [76] highlighted the anti-biofilm activity on MRSA and MSSA due to Q. infectoria extract effect on Staphilococcus aureus cell wall and cell surface hydrophobicity.
Another use of oak extracts is in the cosmetic and pharmaceuticals industries [90], or in alimentary industry. The Quercus extract can be applied as a natural disinfectant and decontaminant for chicken eggs or for helping farmers to avoid fungicides due to their human and environmental hazards [97].

3.3. Anti-Inflammatory and Anticancer Activity

Along the time, more anticancer treatment were developed, but recently the evolving of cancer resistancy and side effects of the chemoterapic therapy, demands new chemicals with high potency, low side effects, and high selectivity at molecular level [75].
The Quercus genus is intensely studied due to its high potency against inflammation and proliferation of cancer cells. The main anticancer compounds identified in Quercus species are ellagic acid, kaempferol and its glycosides, quercetin, myricetin [123,124,125,126]. Farhad et al. [57] describe antiproliferative activity of Q. brantii crude extract that suppresses the proliferation of cancer cells through induction of early apoptosis as mechanism. The betulin compound found in Q. incana leaves extract by Hasan et al. [75] has completely eradicated large cells’ lung cancer even after 15 days of incubation in culture media during colony formation assay compared to the control. Different cancer cells as MCF-7 (breast cancer cell line), HeLa (cervical cancer cells), Jurkat (human T lymphocyte cells), HT-29 (human colon cancer cell line), HEK 293 (human embryonic kidney cells) and T24 (human urinary bladder cancer cells) were tested by Elansary et al. [22] with great regression done by Q. macrocarpa and Q. robur bark extracts.
There are several studies showing anti-inflammatory activity. Castejón Martínez et al. [72] describe that phenolic extracts from Q. ilex leaves decreased neutrophil infiltration and reduced the inflammatory citokines in TNBS-induced ulcerative colitis rats. Chokpaisarn et al. [88] have described the Q. infectoria acorn extract amelioration of inflammatory phenotype of bone marrow-derived macrophages induced by prediabetic or diabetic environments, potentially by inhibiting the Set-7/NF-κB pathway.
The phenolic compounds (e.g., ellagic acid) improves anti-inflammation through isolated compounds from Q. mongolica bark extract which showed inhibitory activities towards inflammatory cytokines and chemokines induced in ultraviolet B (UVB)-irradiated keratinocites by increasing the cell migration ability of cells and enhancing their regeneration when exposed to UVB, and these compounds can be further developed for treating the chronic inflammatory skin diseases, like atopic dermatitis and psoriasis [127].

3.4. Antidiabetic Activity

Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disorder distinguished by a failure of glucose homeostasis with disturbances of carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism as a result of defects in insulin secretion [128]. Phloridzin is a dihydrochalcone glycoside detected at higher concentrations in Quercus leaves, (e.g., Q. resino) [129]. This compound is recognized for its astringent properties and antidiabetic effects [129]. For example, an effect of Q. coccifera bark extracts is inhibition of α-glucosidase. This effect could be important in the treatment of diabetus mellitus, as Sari et al. [64] and Muccilli et al. [111] concluded. The other antidiabetic phenolic compounds from Quercus species can be ellagic acid, rutin or vescalagin [127,130,131]. The Q. floribunda acorn extract has mild to moderate α-amylase inhibition and this strategy is an essential target to manage blood glucose level in noninsulin dependent diabetes mellitus, as found by Soto et al. [115]. Another way to treat diabetes is observed after 15 days of oral administration of Q. mongolica acorn extract in alloxan-induced diabetic rats by Yin et al. [95]. They reported a hypoglycemic activity, but also the fasting blood glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride levels were significantly decreased.
Thus, the significant antidiabetic effect of the Quercus phenolic compounds could be due to the presence of the phenolic compounds, which could act synergistically or independently to enhance the activity of glycolytic enzymes.

3.5. Other Activities

Wine taste is clearly defined by the infusion of phytochemical components found in Quercus species such as Q. petraea, by Sindt et al. [132], who determined that the taste of three compounds extracted from oak bark, that were described for their bitterness and their influence in wine and brandy, increased in bitterness during oak aging. Jiménez-Moreno et al. [106] exhibit more clearly that the wine flavor which was in contact with oak bark displayed a more intense wood and spicy aroma, and more body and persistence in the mouth than the control wine, obtained after applying the toasted oak extract of Q. robur.
Antileishmanial activity against Leishmania tropica by Q. floribunda was studied with interest by Kheirandish et al. [77] who found that promastigotes treated with oak extracts were able to infect only 33.2% of the peritoneal macrophages and their infectiveness reduction was 51.3%. After 4 weeks of Q. infectoria acorn extract treatment, a decrease in the number of parasites compared to the control group was observed. Daryani et al. [61] showed anti-toxoplasma activity of Q. castaneifolia acorn methanolic extract by increasing the survival rate of the mice compared to the mice in the untreated infected control.
Antiadipogenesis is crucial for the prevention of obesity because adipogenesis occurs progressively throughout human life [133]. The antiadipogenic activity was revealed by Q. acutissima acorn extract, which decreased the intracellular lipid droplets in fat tissue and hepatic lipid accumulation and downregulates the diglyceride acyltransferase 2 gene expression as found by Youn et al. [51] and Hwang et al. [52]. The Youn et al. [51] speculated that inhibitory activities of aqueous/methanolic Q. acutissima acorn extracts and particularly the gallic acid, is mediated by regulation of the cell cycle and insulin signaling in the early stage of adipogenesis. Therefore, further study regarding the precise mechanism for the anti-adipogenic activity of acorn shell extracts is required.
Antiacne activity was found by Koseki et al. [53], which explained that Q. acutissima bark extract inhibited androgen-related pathogenesis of acne through inhibition of α-reductase activity in testosterone-induced sebum synthesis in rats.
Q. brantii acorn ethanol extract showed antiviral activity against HSV-1 (Herpes Simplex Virus type 1) by modulating the replication mechanism as suggested by Karimi et al. [56].
One of the interesting effects is shown by Q. salicina leaves and bark extract as the vasodilatator effect on porcine endothelium coronary artery, experienced by Park et al. [112]. Q. gilva leaves and bark extract inhibits the development of urolithiasis in the animal models, as described by Youn et al. [69], and Q. infectoria can be used as analgesic for mild pain relief [79] or for its antiosteoporothic activity, shown by Abdullah et al. [89].
The nutritional role is reminded by Paswan and Sahoo [92] for sustaining the minimal level of production (milk, meat) in wintertime by using Quercus oblongata leaves’ extract.
Finally we have some reports regarding the toxicity of obtained extracts. The Q. infectoria acorn water extract showed non-toxic activity on acute and chronic administration in rats and no significant adverse effects [82]. One the other hand, the Q. crassifolia bark water extract appears to have toxic activity on kidney and was associated with short-term repeated administration in rats, as Valencia et al. [65] discovered.

4. Conclusions and Future Directions

This review unified results about biological activities of Quercus extracts and its isolated compounds. Most bioactivity studies were focused on antioxidant, antimicrobial and anticancer effects. Thus, the Quercus extracts are a great source of phytoconstituents, especially polyphenols. The general conclusion of scientists is that these extracts can be exploited for their antioxidants, antimicrobial and anticancer potential activities and can be used in diverse research fields, such as pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, medical, and for improving the wine sensory quality. Most of the pharmacological effects of Quercus genus can be explained by the high amount of phenolic compounds’ content, especially tannins and their antioxidant potential. The pharmacological studies have mostly been performed in vitro and in vivo, and clinical studies are very limited. Thus, clinical studies are needed to confirm in vitro and in vivo results for a rational use in phytotherapy. These studies should be continuously developing newer techniques for treating multidrug resistance and quorum sensing activity as a bacterial biofilm formation. New anticancer therapies should be continuously developed because of the tendency of resistance to classical treatments. That is why more studies should concentrate on in vivo experiments. More studies are needed to show the link between the chemical compound and bioactivity and to discuss their action mechanism. Even if Quercus products are generally safe, more toxicological data are needed.
Large areas of oak forests, large amounts of forest waste (oak bark and leaves) resulting from wood processing, high availability and their drought resistance make Quercus species important sources of bioactive compounds.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, C.T.; writing—original draft preparation, E.B., A.N.; writing—review and editing, C.T.; visualization, C.T.; supervision, C.T.; All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This research received no external funding

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Figure 1. The main phytochemical compounds and biological activities of Quercus sp.
Figure 1. The main phytochemical compounds and biological activities of Quercus sp.
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Figure 2. Chemical structures of the main phenolic compounds found in Quercus species.
Figure 2. Chemical structures of the main phenolic compounds found in Quercus species.
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Table 1. The biological activities of natural extracts obtained by Quercus (Fagaceae) species.
Table 1. The biological activities of natural extracts obtained by Quercus (Fagaceae) species.
Quercus Species:
Scientific and Common Name
Raw MaterialsExtract TypeMain Compounds IdentifiedBiological/Pharmacological ActivitiesReferences
Quercus acuta Thunb.—Japanese evergreen oak LeafHexane,
Ethyl acetate,
Acetone, Methanol,
Water extract
Cinnamic acid, phytol,
α-linolenic acid, α-tocopherol, β-sitosterol, β-amyrin, and friedelin-3-ol
Antioxidant activity (methanolic extract showed the highest radical scavenging activity and total phenolic content, while the reducing power was the highest in the water extract);
Antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella typhimurium, Escherichia coli, Micrococcus luteus and eight Meticilin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and strains shown by ethyl acetate extract
LeafEthyl acetate extractVitamin E, loliolide, sesquiterpene (neophytadiene), triterpene (α-amyrin, friedelin)
Phytosterol (stigmasterol),
palmitic acid, linolenic acid, flavonoids (quercetin, luteolin, apigenin)
Antioxidant activity;
Antihyperuricemic and xanthin oxidase inhibitory activity
Hyperuricemic mice demonstrated that leaf extract could inhibit hepatic xanthin oxidase activity and significantly alleviate hyperuricemia to a similar extent to allopurinol
Quercus acutissima Carruth.—sawtooth oak Acorn shellWater and methanol extractPhenolic compounds
Antioxidant activity;
Anti-adipogenic activity
AcornEthanol extract-
Antiobesity effect—quercus fruit extract attenuated increasing lipid dropplet size in retroperitoneal fat tissue and hepatic lipid accumulation induced by high-fat diet in mice
BarkWater axtractFlavonoids, gallotannin, ellagitannin
Anti acne vulgaris—inhibited androgen-related pathogenesys of acne, testosterone conversion, and sebum synthesis partially through inhibition of 5α-reductase activity and testosterone-induced sebum synthesis in rats
Methanol extractPhenolic acids (caffeic acid, ellagic acid, gallic acid, and protocate-chuic acid)
Antibacterial activity against Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Bacillus cereus, Listeria monocytogenes, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Mariniluteicoccus flavus;
Antifungal activity against Aspergillus flavus, Aspergillus ochraceus, Aspergillus niger, Candida albicans, Penicillum feniculosum,Penicillum ochrochloron;
Anticancer activity against breast cancer cell line, cervical cancer cells, human T lymphocyte cells, human colon cancer cell line, human embryonic kidney cells
Quercus alba L.—white oak BarkMethanol extractEllagitannins, procyanidins, triterpenes
Antibacterial activity against Streptococcus aureus, Acinetobacter baumannii, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Acinetobacter baumannii, Staphylocccus epidermidis;
Antibiofilm activity against Staphylococcus aureus
Water extract-
Antibacterial activitity against Staphylococcus aureus
Quercus brantii Lindl.—Brant’s oak AcornEthanol extractPhenolic compounds
Antiviral activity against Herpes Simplex Virus type 1 (HSV-1)
Methanol extractPhenolic compounds
Antioxidant activity showed by extract`s reducing power related to their total phenolic content
Ethyle alcohol extractPhenolic compounds
Antiproliferative activity—crude ethyle alcohol extract and the n-butanol and chloroform fractions of Q. brantii supress the proliferation of cancer cells through induction of early apoptosis
Ethanol extractPhenolic compounds
Antioxidant activity;
Antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus and Enterococcus faecalis
Powder and hydro-alcoholic extract Phenolic compounds
Antioxidant activity;
Anti-inflammatory activity
LeavesAlcoholic extractPolysaccharide
Antioxidant activity—the radical scavenging activity was increased by increasing concentration of leaf extract;
Antibacterial activity against Salmonella typhi, Staphylococcus aureus;
Antifungal activity against Candida albicans, Planococcus citri
AcornHydro-alcoholic extract-
Antifungal activity against vaginal cadidiasis; results of the Q, brantii extract vaginal douche are the same as the clotrimazole vaginal cream
Quercus castaneifolia C.A. Mey—chestnut - leaved oakAcornMethanol extract-
Anti-toxoplasma activity
Quercus cerris L.—Turkey oak, Austrian oakSeedWater extractflavonoids, ellagic acid, gallotaninns, ellagitannins, α-tocopherol
Antioxidant activity
LeavesWater extract -
Antibiofilm activity against Staphylococcus aureus
Quercus coccifera L.—kermes oakBark and lower stemsMethanol extract Lignan (lyoniresinol), cocciferoside, chlorocatechin, polydatin
α-glucosidase inhibitory activity;
Tyrosinase inhibitory activity
Quercus crassifolia Bonpl.—mexican oak BarkEthanol and water extractPolyphenols (flavonoids, hydroxycinnamic acids)
Antioxidant activity
Antioxidant activity;
Antibacterial activity against Escherichia coli;
Toxic activity on kidney was observed associated with short-term repeated administration of Q. crassifolia bark extract in rats
Quercus mongolica ssp. crispula (Blume) Menitsky—mizunara Leaves and barkEthanol extractEllagic acid, chlorogenic acid, benzoic acid
Antioxidant activity—strong correlation between phenolic content in studied extract and its antioxidant power
Leaves 80% acetone extract-
Potent anti-inflammatory activity;
Anti-Acne Vulgaris Effects
Quercus floribunda Lindl. Ex A. Camus AcornWater, Methanol,
Chloroform extracts
Flavonoids, quercetin, gallic acid, catechin and chlorogenic acid, pyrocatechol
Antioxidant activity;
Anticancer activity against human liver cancer cell line and monocytic leukemia cell line;
Antibacterial activity—mildly active against Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumonie and Staphylococcus aureus;
Antidiabetic activities—mild to moderate α-amylase inhibition;
Antileishmanial activity
Quercus gilva Blume—red-bark oak Leaves and barkAqueous acetone extractCathechins, tannins
Antioxidant activity;
Anti-urolithiasis effect
Quercus glauca Thunb.—ring cupped oak, Japanese blue oak, BarkEthanolic extractLignans, lignanoids, triterpenoids, flavonoids
Antioxidant activity
Quercus ilex L.—evergreen oak, holy oakAcorn pulpAcetone and water extractPhenolic compounds
Antioxidant activity
AcornWater extractPhenolic compounds
Antidiarrheal activity
LeavesHydro-methanol extractPhenolic acids—(gallic, protocatechuic, ellagic acid derivatives, and ellagic acid), flavonoids, (catechin, epicatechins, and quercetin)
Anti-inflammatory activity—extract decreased neutrophil infiltration and reduced the inflammatory citokines in ulcerative colitis rats
BarkWater and methanol extractFlavonoids, catechins
Antibacterial activity against Streptococcus mutans
Quercus incana Bartran—bluejack oak, cinnamon oakBarkMethanol extractFlavonoids, tannins
Antioxidant activity;
Antibacterial activity against Bacillus subtilis, Streptococcus pyogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Klebsiella pneumonie, and Escherichia coli;
Antifungal activity against Candida glabrata, Candida albicans, Aspergillus niger, Aspergillus flavus, Fusarium solani, Microsporus canis
LeavesChloroform, Methanol n-hexane extractFlavonoids (eupatorin), triterpene (betulin)
Anticancer activity—inhibition observed by betulin against large cells lung cancer was dose- and time-dependent; betulin has completely eradicated cancer cells even after 15 days of incubation in culture media during colony formation assay compared to the control
Quercus infectoria G. Olivier—aleppo oak AcornEthanolic exractPhenolic compounds
Anti-biofilm activity on MRSA and MSSA (Meticilin Susceptible Staph. aureus)
Methanolic extractTannins, phenols and flavonoids
Antioxidant activity
Antileichmanial active;ity against Leichmania major
Ethanol and water extractp-hydroxybenzoic acid, pyrogallol, catechol, caffeine, cathechine, e-vanillic, 3-hydroxythyro-sol, naringin, rutin
Antibacterial activity against Escherichia coli, Salmonella Typhimurium, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Staphylococcus aureus;
− Antifungal activity—against Candida albicans
Water extractTannins
Antibacterial activity against MRSA through interference of various metabolism and function of the bacterial proteome
Methanol extractAlkaloids, flavonoids, steroids, tannins
Analgesic activity
Water extract-
Anti-inflammatory activity and non-toxic activity on acute and chronic administration in rats
BarkAcetone extractPhenolic compounds
Anti-quorum sensing activity—reduced the pyocyanin, protease, elastase production and biofilm formation in Pseudomonas aeruginosa
AcornHidroalcoholic axtract-
Antiangiogenic activity—the extract prevented the formation of endothelial tubular structures by endotelial cells, inhibited the ability of cellular migration and decreased the vascular endothelial growth factor secretion
Acetone and methanol extract-
Antibacterial activity of acorn extract in combination with Vancomycin against two strains of MRSA. The time-kill curves showed a faster killing rate than Vancomycin alone and a synergic interaction
Ethanol extract-
Antifungal activity against Candida albicans compared with fluconazole
Aqueous extract-
Antibiofilm activity against Pseudomonas aeruginosa
Ethanol extractPhenolic acids (tannic acid, gallic acid, ellagic acid), flavonoids
Anti-inflammatory activity—extract treatment ameliorated the inflammatory phenotype of bone marrow derived macrophages induced by prediabetic or diabetic environments
Water extractGallic acid, syringic acid
Antiosteoporothic—Q. infectoria semipurified fractions combined with osteoporotic drug pamidronate induce bone formation in human fetal osteoblast cell model, and increase the efficiency of pamidronate acting on osteoblast cell.
Quercus laurina Bonpl.—mexican oakBarkEthanolic and water extract-
Antioxidant activity
Quercus oblongata D. Don—banj oak Bark-Mono-terpenoids (1,8–cineol, γ-terpinene), sesquiterpenoids, aliphatic aldehydes
Antimicrobial activity and sinergic effect against Streptococcus pyogenes
Acorn-Palmitic and stearic acids
Antibacterial activity against Bacillus subtilis, Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli
Leaves-Carbohydrates, protein
Nutritional support for sustaining the minimal level of production (milk,meat) and increased food intake, nutrient digestibility in winter time on cattlles
Quercus macrocarpa Michx.—bur oak BarkMethanol extractCaffeic acid, ellagic acid, protocatechuic, gallic acid, epicatechin, epigallocatechin
Antioxidant activity;
Antibacterial activity against Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Bacillus cereus, Listeria monocytogenes, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Mariniluteicoccus flavus;
Antifungal activity against Aspergillus flavus, Aspergillus ochraceus, Aspergillus niger, Candida albicans, Penicillum feniculosum, Penicillum ochrochloron;
Anticancer activity against breast cancer cell line, cervical cancer cells, human T lymphocyte cells, human colon cancer cell line, human embryonic kidney cells
Quercus mongolica Fisch. ex Ladeb.—Mongolian oakLeavesAcetone extractTannins, flavonoids
Anti-inflammatory activities
LeavesAcetone extractCatechin, epigallocatechin, quercetin, kaempferol, glucopyranoside
Antioxidant activity
Acorn (cups)Ethanol extractEllagic acid, kaempferol
Hypoglycemic activity. After 15 days of oral administration in alloxan-induced diabetic rats, fasting blood glucose levels, cholesterol and triglyceride levels were significantly decreased;
Antioxidant activity;
Superoxide dismutase activity in heart, liver, spleen and kidney were significantly improved
Quercus petraea (Matt.) Liebl.—sessile oak Twigs, leaves, acornWater extractCatechin, tannins, flavonoids, proanthocyanidin
Antioxidant activity
BarkAlcohol extractTannins (vescalagin, castalagin, grandinin and roburin E)
Antioxidant and antiinflammatory activity
Quercus phillyreoides A.Gray—ubame oakBarkWater extractAlkaloids, flavonoids, saponins, tannins, terpenoids, antraquinone
Antifungal activity against Lasiodiplodia theobromae, Aspergillus niger, Sclerotium rolfsii, Penicillum oxalicum, Rhizoctonia solani, Fusarium oxysporum
Quercus pyrenaica Wild.—Pyrenean oak BarkWater/acetone and methanol extractVescalagin, castalagin, granidin and roburin E
nutraceutical and cosmetic applications
Quercus robur L.—common oak/pedunculate oak/European oak/English oakBarkWater extractGallic acid, ellagic acid, castalin/Vescalin
granidinin/roburin E
Antioxidant activity
Tannins (roburins)
Improvement in energy, tiredness and tension level associated with reduction of oxidative stress
Phloroglucinol dihydrate, 4-propylresorcinol, pyrogallol
Antibacterial activity against Chromobacterium violaceum
Anti-quorum sensing effect agains C. violaceum
Twigs, leaves and acornWater extractCarotenoids, proanthocyanidin, tannins, flavonoids
Antioxidant activity
BarkWater extract-
Antioxidant activity
Antioxidant activity
Antiinflammatory activity
Ellagic acid
Antioxidant activity
Antioxidant activity
BarkWater extractvanillin, coniferaldehyde, acetovanillone and syringaldehyde
Flavouring activity of grapewine
Methanol extractAlkaloids, anthraquinones, saponins, tannins and terpenoids
Antioxidant activity;
Antibacterial activity against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Staphylococcus epidermidis and Bacillus subtilis
Ellagic acid, gallic acid, protocatechuic acid and vanillic acid
Antioxidant activity;
Antibacterial activity against Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Bacillus cereus, Listeria monocytogenes, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Mariniluteicoccus flavus;
Antifungal activity against Aspergillus flavus, Aspergillus ochraceus, Aspergillus niger, Candida albicans, Penicillum feniculosum, Penicillum ochrochloron;
Anticancer activity against breast cancer cell line, cervical cancer cells, human T lymphocyte cells, human colon cancer cell line, human embryonic kidney cells and human urinary bladder cancer cells
Production of styrene by cultivating a fungus (Penicillium expansum) on forest waste biomass (oak bark) as a feeding substrate along with potato dextrose and yeast extract
Supplementation of diets in dairy cows with Q. robur extract reduced urinary N excretion and increased the concentration of α-linoleic acid in milk
AcornMethanol/water extractPhenolic compounds
inhibitory effect on α-synuclein fibrillation, protein that its fibrillation is the causative factor of Parkinson’s disease
BarkEthanol extractGallic acid, castalagin, vescalagin, granidin, roburin E
Antidiabetic activity determined by α- glucosidase inhibition assay
Quercus salicina Blume Leaves and barkEthanol extractGallic and vanillic acids, flavonoids
Antioxidant activity
Vasodilatator effect on porcine endothelium coronary artery
Quercus scytophylla Liebm.—mexican oakBarkEthanolic and water extract-
- Antioxidant activity
Quercus serrata Murray—jolcham oak Leaves and barkEthanol extractsyringic acid, cinnamic acids, flavonoids
Antioxidat activity
Seeds Ethanol extractTriterpenoid comounds fractions
Anti-neuroinflammatory activity
Quercus sideroxyla Bonpl.BarkEthanol extractGallic acid, catechin, epicatechin, gallocatechin, dimeric procyanidins
Antihiperglycemic activity—mantaining the glucose levels to more stable levels by inhibiting the α-amylase enzyme
BarkAqueous acetone extractGallic acid, catechin, epicatechin, gallocatechin, procyanidins, proanthocyanidins
Antioxidant activity
Quercus suber L.—cork oakBarkHidroalcoholic extractGallic acid, ellagic acid, vescalagin, castalagin, Β-O-ethylvescalagin
Antioxidant activity
Acetone extractPhenolic acids, proanthocianidins,
Antifungal activity against Trichophyton verrucosum, Trichophyton mentagrophytes
water extract-
Antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli
Quercus variabilis Blume—Chinese cork oak Acorn cups and shellEthanol and water extractEllagic acid, tannins
Antioxidant activity;
Antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella parathyphi, Salmonella thyphimurium, Salmonella enteritidis, Listeria monocytogenes

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Burlacu, E.; Nisca, A.; Tanase, C. A Comprehensive Review of Phytochemistry and Biological Activities of Quercus Species. Forests 2020, 11, 904.

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Burlacu E, Nisca A, Tanase C. A Comprehensive Review of Phytochemistry and Biological Activities of Quercus Species. Forests. 2020; 11(9):904.

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Burlacu, Ema, Adrian Nisca, and Corneliu Tanase. 2020. "A Comprehensive Review of Phytochemistry and Biological Activities of Quercus Species" Forests 11, no. 9: 904.

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