Chembox new
Name = Psoralen
IUPACName = "7H"-furo [3,2-g] chromen-7-one or
"7H"-furo [3,2-g] benzopyran-7-one
ImageFile = Psoralen.png ImageName = Chemical structure of psoralen
Section1 = Chembox Identifiers
CASNo = 66-97-7

Section2 = Chembox Properties
Formula = C11H6O3
MolarMass = 186.17 g/mol
MeltingPt = 158-161 °C
Density =

Psoralen (also called psoralene) is the parent compound in a family of natural products known as "furocoumarins". It is structurally related to coumarin by the addition of a fused furan ring, and may be considered as a derivative of umbelliferone. Psoralen occurs naturally in the seeds of "Psoralea corylifolia", as well as in the common Fig, celery, parsley and West Indian satinwood. It is widely used in PUVA (=Psoralen +UVA) treatment for psoriasis, eczema and vitiligo. Although safe to mammals, it should be used with care since many furocoumarins are extremely toxic to fish, and some are indeed used in streams in Indonesia to catch fish.


An important use of psoralen is in PUVA treatment for skin problems such as psoriasis and (to a lesser extent) eczema and vitiligo. This takes advantage of the high UV absorbance of psoralen. The psoralen is applied first to sensitise the skin, then UVA light is applied to clean up the skin problem. Psoralen has also been recommended for treating alopecia. Psoralens are also used in photopheresis where they are mixed with the extracted leukocytes before UV radiation is applied.

Psoralen is a significant mutagen and is used for this purpose in molecular biology research.

Despite the photocarcinogenic properties of psoralen, cite journal |author=M. J. Ashwood-Smith; G. A. Poulton; M. Barker;  M. Mildenberger E |title=5-Methoxypsoralen, an ingredient in several suntan preparations, has lethal, mutagenic and clastogenic properties |url= |journal=Nature |volume=285 |issue=5 |pages=407–409 |year=1980 |pmid=1546792 |issn= |doi=10.1038/285407a0] cite journal |author=Zajdela F, Bisagni E. |title=5-Methoxypsoralen, the melanogenic additive in sun-tan preparations, is tumorigenic in mice exposed to 365 nm UV radiation. |url= |journal=Carcinogenesis |volume=1981 |issue=2 |pages=121–7 |year=1981 |pmid= |issn= |doi=10.1093/carcin/2.2.121] It had been used as a tanning activator in sunscreens until 1996. cite journal |author=AUTIER P. ; DORE J.-F. ; CESARINI J.-P. |title=Should subjects who used psoralen suntan activators be screened for melanoma?|url= |journal=Annals of oncology |volume=8 |issue=5 |pages=435–437 |year=1997 |pmid= |issn=0923-7534 |doi=10.1023/A:1008205513771] Psoralens are used in tanning accelerators, but users should keep in mind that psoralen increases your skin’s sensitivity to light. [ guide to tanning accelerators] Some patients have even had severe skin loss after sunbathing with psoralen containing tanning activators. [] Patients with lighter skin colour suffer four times as much from the melanoma-generating properties of psoralens than other skin types cite journal |author=AUTIER P. ; DORE J.-F. ; CESARINI J.-P. |title=Should subjects who used psoralen suntan activators be screened for melanoma?|url= |journal=Annals of oncology |volume=8 |issue=5 |pages=435–437 |year=1997 |pmid= |issn=0923-7534 |doi=10.1023/A:1008205513771]


One isomer of psoralen is angelicin, and most furocoumarins can be regarded as derivatives of psoralen or angelicin. Some important psoralen derivatives are Imperatorin, xanthotoxin, bergapten and nodekenetin.

Another important feature of this class of compounds is its ability in generating singlet oxygen.


The structure of psoralen was originally deduced using its degradation reactions. It exhibits the normal reactions of the lactone of coumarin, such as ring opening by alkali to give a coumarinic acid or coumaric acid derivative. Potassium permanganate causes oxidation of the furan ring, while other methods of oxidation produce furan-2,3-carboxylic acid.


Psoralen synthesis is challenging, due the fact that umbelliferone undergoes substitution at the 8-position rather than at the desired 6 position. Benzofuran reacts preferentially in the furan ring rather than in the benzene ring. However the 6-hydroxy derivative of 2,3-dihydrobenzofuran (also called coumaran) does undergo substitution as desired allowing the following synthesis of the coumarin system via a Gattermann-Koch reaction followed by a Perkin condensation using acetic anhydride. The synthesis is then completed by dehydrogenation of the five-membered ring to produce the furan ring.

External links

* [ Institute for Traditional Medicine vitiligo article]
* [ ibiblio page on "Psoralea corylifolia"]
* [ USDA ARS info on uses & plants]


# F. M. Dean "Naturally Occurring Oxygen Ring Compounds", Butterworths, London, 1963.
# "The Merck Index", 7th edition, Merck & Co, Rahway, New Jersey, USA, 1960.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • psoralen — [sôr′ə lən] n. any of various derivatives of coumarin used in drugs to treat psoriasis, etc.: when activated by sunlight it causes the skin to darken …   English World dictionary

  • Psoralen — Strukturformel Allgemeines Name Psoralen Andere Namen 7H …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • psoralen — noun Etymology: New Latin Psoralea, genus of plants from which it is isolated + English en, alteration of ene Date: 1933 a substance C11H6O3 found in some plants that photosensitizes mammalian skin and is used in conjunction with ultraviolet… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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  • psoralen — psoralenas statusas T sritis chemija formulė (=O)C₁₁H₆O₂ atitikmenys: angl. psoralen rus. псорален ryšiai: sinonimas – furo[3,2 g]benzpiran 7 onas …   Chemijos terminų aiškinamasis žodynas

  • psoralen — A substance from plants that is sensitive to light (or can be activated by light). Psoralens are used together with UV light to treat psoriasis, vitiligo, and skin nodules of cutaneous T cell lymphoma. They are also being studied in the treatment …   English dictionary of cancer terms

  • psoralen — ˈsōrələ̇n, ˈsȯr noun ( s) Etymology: modification of New Latin Psoralea psoralea : a substance C11H6O3 found in some plants that photosensitizes mammalian skin and is used in conjunction with ultraviolet light to treat psoriasis ; also : any of… …   Useful english dictionary

  • psoralen — /sawr euh leuhn, sohr /, n. Pharm. a toxic substance, C11H6O3, found in certain plants, including parsnips, used to increase the response to ultraviolet light in the treatment of severe cases of acne and psoriasis. Also called furocoumarin. [1930 …   Universalium

  • psoralen — noun Any of a group of furanocoumarins, from the seeds of various plants, that are used to treat psoriasis, eczema and vitiligo …   Wiktionary

  • Psoralen — Pso|ra|len [nlat. Psoralea corylifolia, ein asiatischer Schmetterlingsblütler (Bot.)], das; s, e: ein Furocumarin, das ebenso wie seine 5 u. 8 Methoxyderivate photosensibilisierend wirkt (↑ Bergapten, ↑ Xanthotoxin) …   Universal-Lexikon

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