Coumarin is a chemical compound which is found naturally in some plants, although it can be synthetically produced as well.
It has a distinctive odor which has led people to use it as a food additive and ingredient in perfume. Due to concerns about coumarin as a potential liver and kidney toxin, its use as a food additive is heavily restricted, although it is perfectly safe to eat foods which naturally contain the compound.
One natural source of coumarin is tonka beans, tropical beans which are known by the French as coumarou. To release their captive coumarin, the beans are soaked in alcohol and then fermented. The substance also occurs in sweet clover, strawberries, cherries, bison grass, woodruff, and apricots. Coumarin has traditionally been used as a vanilla substitute in various foods, especially tobacco, although this usage is restricted in some countries.
While coumarins are only approved for a few remedial uses as pharmaceuticals, it may be noted that during a number of studies, they have also demonstrated some proof of numerous biological activities. The biological activities reported for coumarins comprise of anti-tumor, anti-HIV, anti-hypertension, anti-inflammatory, anti-arrhythmia (any substance that prevents and/ or slows down abnormal heartbeat), antiseptic, anti-osteoporosis and analgesic or palliative. In addition, coumarins are also used to treat asthma. Many physicians also recommend the use of coumarin in treating lymphedema (a condition wherein there is an accumulation of lymph in soft tissue, which is accompanied by swelling).
Coumarin has also been found to possess appetite-suppressing properties, which denotes that it has the ability to hold back hunger. This attribute of this organic chemical compound explains why it is naturally present in a large variety of plants, particularly clovers and grasses, and when animals graze on such fodder have a reduced appetite and, hence, the plants are saved from their onslaught. While this organic compound possesses a pleasurable sweet fragrance, sweet grass and sweet clover have derived their names from it, coumarin is not known to have a pleasant flavor. In fact, coumarin possesses a bitter flavor for which animals normally avoid it whenever it is possible.
Loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea or blurred vision may occur at first as your body adjusts to the medication. Inform your doctor if you experience: unusual bleeding or bruising, blood in the urine or stools, severe headache. May cause urine to turn orange-red in color. This is not harmful and will disappear when the medication is stopped.
None are recorded.
Source: Herbs2000, http://www.herbs2000.com/h_menu/coumarins.htm