Anthocyanins are a pigment class. The largest in the plant kingdom, they dominate blue/purple to purple/red, with some cross-over with the carotenoids who are also reddish to yellow-white. Normally mentioned when blueberries come up, anthocyanins are present in many blue-purple foods.

This page features 6 unique references to scientific papers.

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Anthocyanins are a class of pigmentation, the largest group in the plant kingdom.[1] They are molecules found (mostly) in plants that cover the deep red to blue spectrum, and are the main compound contibuting to red wine's anti-oxidant effects[2]. According to a recent review[3] there are currently more than 635 anthocyanins known, and they are categorized as possessing a 'hydroxylated 2-phenylbenzopyrilium chromophore'[4] which is depicted below.

The two bendy shapes are the bottom corners are sugars, which are usually bound to the molecule when it is found in food (when bound to sugar, the compound is known as a 'glycone'; if its glucose specifically, a 'glucone'. 'Aglycone' or 'Aglucone' mean that the compound is not attached to sugars/glucose respectively).

A compound written as 'Cyanidin-3-O-Glucoside' is merely the cyanidin molecule (above structure with an -OH on R1, and just a hydrogen on the R2) bound to glucose. A compound written as 'Delphinidin-3-O-Galactoside' is the delphinidin structure bound to galactose.

Changing what is placed on the R sections of the backbone above changes the molecule and some (but not all) properties; the sugars bound to the parent molecule might also change the function. Various combinations of these six parent structures and sugars are what accounts for the 635 or more variations of anthocyanins.

Plants have differing combinations of anthocyanins (if blue or deep red) depending on its current shade. Plants tend to have a wide range of anthocyanins as well, rather than just one.

Many anthocyanins have been investigated for their various health benefits, including anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Some aspects are common to all anthocyanins while some are unique to a certain molecule.

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Also Known As

Blue pigmentation, Purple pigmentation, Deep red Pigmentation

Anthocyanins are a very fun area to study. They seem to provide a lot of benefit, but there are so many factors affecting whether they get into your body or not (and how they work afterwards) that supplementing anthocyanins effectively and economically seems like a Pipe Dream.

For now, eat your blue-red plants.

Kurtis Frank

Most scientific support for anthocyanins can be found on the respective molecule's own page.


  1. Kong JM, et al. Analysis and biological activities of anthocyanins. Phytochemistry. (2003)
  2. Rivero-Pérez MD, Muñiz P, González-Sanjosé ML. Contribution of anthocyanin fraction to the antioxidant properties of wine. Food Chem Toxicol. (2008)
  3. He J, Giusti MM. Anthocyanins: natural colorants with health-promoting properties. Annu Rev Food Sci Technol. (2010)
  4. Yoshida K, Mori M, Kondo T. Blue flower color development by anthocyanins: from chemical structure to cell physiology. Nat Prod Rep. (2009)
  5. Loa J, Chow P, Zhang K. Studies of structure-activity relationship on plant polyphenol-induced suppression of human liver cancer cells. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. (2009)
  6. Boumendjel A. Aurones: a subclass of flavones with promising biological potential. Curr Med Chem. (2003)

(Common misspellings for Anthocyanins include anthocyanin, anthocianin, anthosianin, anthosyanin, anthosyanins)

(Common phrases used by users for this page include where can i purchase anthocyanin, supplement for anthocyanins, list of wines that have anthocyanin and polyphrnois in them, information anthocyanine, anthocyanins benefits, 2-phenylbenzopyrilium)

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