Lanolin

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Chapter: Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry : Drugs Containing Lipids

Lanolin is the fat-like purified secretion of the sebaceous glands which is deposited into the wool fibres of sheep, Ovis aries Linn., belonging to family Bovidae.


LANOLIN

 

 

Synonyms

 

Wool fat; Oesipos; Agnin; Alapurin; Anhydrous lanolin; Adeps lanae; Laniol.

 

Biological Source

 

Lanolin is the fat-like purified secretion of the sebaceous glands which is deposited into the wool fibres of sheep, Ovis aries Linn., belonging to family Bovidae.

 

Preparation

 

Wool is cut and washed with a soap or alkali. An emulsion of wool fat, called as wool grease, takes place in water. Raw lanolin is separated by cracking the emulsion with sulphuric acid. Wool grease floats on the upper layer and fatty acids are dissolved in the lower layer. Lanolin is purified by treating with sodium peroxide and bleaching with reagents.

 

Characteristics

 

Lanolin is a yellowish white, tenacious, unctuous mass; odour is slight and characteristic. Practically, it is insoluble in water, but soluble in chloroform or ether with the separation of the water. It melts in between 34 and 40°C. On heating it forms two layers in the beginning, continuous heating removes water. Lanolin is not saponified by an aqueous alkali. However, saponification takes place with alcoholic solution of alkali.

 

Anhydrous lanolin is a yellowish tenacious, semisolid fat with slight odour. Practically it is insoluble in water but mixes with about twice its weight of water without separation. It is sparingly soluble in cold, more in hot alcohol, freely soluble in benzene, chloroform, ether, carbon disulphide, acetone, and petroleum ether.

 

Chemical Constituents

 

Lanolin is a complex mixture of esters and polyesters of 33 high molecular weight alcohols, and 36 fatty acids. The alcohols are of three types; aliphatic alcohols, steroid alcohols, and triterpenoid alcohols. The acids are also of three types: saturated nonhydroxylated acids, unsaturated nonhydroxylated acids, and hydroxylated acids. Liquid lanolin is rich in low molecular weight, branched aliphatic acids, and alcohols, whereas waxy lanolin is rich in high molecular weight, straight-chain acids, and alcohols.

 

The chief constituents of lanolin are cholesterol, iso-cholesterol, unsaturated monohydric alcohols of the formula C27H45OH, both free and combined with lanoceric (C30H60O4), lanopalmitic (C16H22O3), carnaubic, and other fatty acids. Lanolin also contains esters of oleic and myristic acids, aliphatic alcohols, such as cetyl, ceryl and carnaubyl alcohols, lanosterol, and agnosterol.

 


 

Identification Tests

 

Dissolve 0.5 g of lanolin in chloroform, and to it add 1 ml of acetic anhydride and two drops of sulphuric acid. A deep green colour is produced, indicating the presence of cholesterol.

 

Uses

 

Lanolin is used as an emollient, as water absorbable ointment base in many skin creams and cosmetic and for hoof dressing. Wool fat is readily absorbed through skin and helps in increasing the absorption of active ingredients incorporated in the ointment. However, it may act as an allergenic contactant in hypersensitive persons.

 

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