Family Ebenaceae Gurke in Engler Prantl 1891 nom conserv the Ebony Family

Physical description: The family Ebenaceae consists of 5 genera and about 450 species of tropical timbers and shrubs. The wood of Ebenaceae is very dense, hard and reddish. The wood contains notably 1,4 naphthoquinones (plumbagin and 7 - methyljuglone) that darken upon light exposure. Other notorious secondary metabolites of Ebenaceae are a series of pentacyclic triterpenes of the ursane and oleanane type, and some lignans. The leaves of Ebenaceae are simple, leathery, alternate and without stipules. The flowers are small, regular, hypogynous, and principally unisexual (dioecious). The calyx is 3-7-lobed, persistent, and often vestigial in fruits. The corolla is sympetalous, 3-7-lobed. The stamens are attached to the base of the corolla tube, and are usually twice as many as the corolla lobes. The gynecium consists of 2-10 carpels, forming a compound, plurilocular ovary containing several ovules attached to axile placentas. The fruits are very characteristic juicy or leathery berries marked at the base with a vestigial calyx.

7 Methyljuglone

7 Methyljuglone

/\H Ursane

Oleanane

Pharmaceutical interest: Classical examples of Ebenaceae are Diospyros ebenum Konig. (ebony), Diospyros virginianum L. (persimmon) and Diospyros kaki L.f. (Japanese persimmon). Ebenaceae are interesting because they contain a series of antibacterial, antiviral, cytotoxic, monoamine oxidase-inhibitors and antioxidant monomer, dimmers and oligomers of naphthoquinones, and it would not be surprising should more intensive future research on this family disclose any molecules of therapeutic interest. About 20 species of Ebenaceae are used for medicinal purposes in the Asia-Pacific. Note that medicinal Ebenaceae are often used to expel intestinal worms and to treat viral infections.

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