A naturally occurring aromatic organic compound which can be found in some plants, fungi and insect, anthraquinone contributes to the colouring pigment of these organisms and is therefore used commercially for the manufacture of dyes. Aside from manufacturing dyes, anthraquinone is also used in the medicine industry. In its powdered form, the substance only exhibits colours that range from gray to yellow and green, but can be used to manufacture dyes with a variety of colours. Aside from occurring naturally, it can also be produced through chemical reactions, such as reducing benzene and phthalic anhydride, for which hydration is important for the mixture to be considered an anthraquinone. The substance is also known as anthrachinon, dioxoanthracene and several other trade names such as Corbit and Hoelite. Some properties of the substance are that in its solid form, it is yellow in colour and poorly soluble in water, however being soluble in hot organic solvents; for example if dissolved in ethanol at room temperature, the substance would be barely soluble, but when dissolved in the same amount of boiling ethanol, the substance dissolves easily.
Aside from being used to produce dyes, anthraquinone is also used in several other applications. The substance aids the production of wood pulp and paper by acting as a catalyst. Also, a derivative of the substance; 2-ethylanthraquinone is used in the production of hydrogen peroxide. The substance has also been used as a bird repellent for many years, especially for repelling geese. Anthraquinone possess laxative properties which when applied on birdseed or grass helps to repel birds from an area.
The use of anthraquinone in the manufacture in various substances is a safety challenge from most manufacturers due to the highly combustible properties of the substance. It cannot be used near an open flame or in extreme heat due to its risk of catching fire. Also, when the substance is burnt, it releases toxic fumes into the air. Therefore, the workers dealing with this substance wear P1 filter respirators, to avoid inhaling any inert particles that might harm their health, along with wearing gloves and eyewear. Anthraquinone is not readily biodegradable and is also toxic to fish. Aside from these disadvantages, the substance is a great help in the medical industry.
Studies have shown that the substance aids digestion, reduces inflammation in arthritis patients and also inhibits the growth of cancer cells. These anthraquinone that are used for medical purposes found to be naturally occurring implants and are not made through chemical reactions. However, even in medical use, the substance still does have side effects. The most common use of the substance in the medicine industry is as a laxative that improves digestion. Although it speeds up digestions, the substance can cause discoloration of intestines in some patients, which is not life threatening or dangerous but may be upsetting for some people. As for treating arthritis, the substance is not used on its own, but in the form of aloe vera supplements. As anthraquinone can be found to be naturally occurring in aloe vera, it is used in combination with other compounds and can help reduce the pain associated with arthritis.
Rhubarb is a plant containing three separate anthraquinone that can help to prevent the growth of cancer cells while destroying existing ones. There are other plants that also contain anthraquinone which can be used to treat cancer. Although more studies need to be done on this treatment, those done so far show promising results. Some studies have shown that some anthraquinone may have a carcinogenic effect on the body, although it is those anthraquinones that have been produced synthetically and are not extracted from those naturally occurring ones. Despite its medical advantages, patients should never try using anthraquinone without consulting a doctor first as it could have side effects.
Anthraquinones have a variety of applications and offer many advantages to users. Not only as dyes used for a variety of process, but even in the medical field anthraquinones provide many benefits.