organic substances produced by trees. Believed to be involved in a tree’s chemical defense processes.
Tannins (or tannoids) are a class of astringent, polyphenolic biomolecules that bind to and precipitate proteins and various other organic compounds including amino acids and alkaloids.
The term tannin (from Anglo-Norman tanner, from Medieval Latin tannāre, from tannum, oak bark) refers to the use of oak and other bark in tanning animal hides into leather. By extension, the term tannin is widely applied to any large polyphenolic compound containing sufficient hydroxyls and other suitable groups (such as carboxyls) to form strong complexes with various macromolecules.
The tannin compounds are widely distributed in many species of plants, where they play a role in protection from predation (including as pesticides) and might help in regulating plant growth. The astringency from the tannins is what causes the dry and puckery feeling in the mouth following the consumption of unripened fruit, red wine or tea. Likewise, the destruction or modification of tannins with time plays an important role when determining harvesting times.
Tannins have molecular weights ranging from 500 to over 3,000 (gallic acid esters) and up to 20,000 (proanthocyanidins).