Magnolol and honokiol, the bioactive phyto-chemicals contained in Magnolia officinalis, are uncommon antioxidants bearing isomeric bisphenol cores substituted with allyl functions. We have elucidated the chemistry behind their antioxidant activity by experimental and computational methods. In the inhibited autoxidation of cumene and styrene at 303 K, magnolol trapped four peroxyl radicals, with a kith of 6.1 x 10(4) M-1 s(-1) in chlorobenzene and 6.0 x 10(3) M-1 s(-1) in acetonitrile, and honokiol trapped two peroxyl radicals in chlorobenzene (k(inh) = 3.8 x 10(4) M-1 s(-1)) and four peroxyl radicals in acetonitrile (k(inh) = 9.5 x 10(3) M-1 s(-1)). Their different behavior arises from a combination of intramolecular hydrogen bonding among the reactive OH groups (in magnolol) and of the OH groups with the aromatic and allyl pi-systems, as confirmed by FT-IR spectroscopy and DFT calculations. Comparison with structurally related 3,3',5,5'-tetramethylbiphenyl-4,4'-diol, 2-allylphenol, and 2-allylanisole allowed us to exclude that the antioxidant behavior of magnolol and honokiol is due to the allyl groups. The reaction of the allyl group with a peroxyl radical (C-H hydrogen abstraction) proceeds with rate constant of 1.1 M-1 s(-1) at 303 K. Magnolol and honokiol radicals do not react with molecular oxygen and produce no superoxide radical under the typical settings of inhibited autoxidations.
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