Aromatic plants are worldwide known for both their attractive aroma and biological properties applied to different fields (cosmetic, food, pharmaceutical, etc.). One of the most popular use is to prepare herbal teas, as such or in blend because several components, including volatiles responsible for the aroma, present relevant biological activities (antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, toxic...) (1). Therefore, their correct botanical identification and quality control are mandatory to guarantee their effective and, above all, safe use. The volatile fraction is therefore an important marker to characterize raw plant materials and to quantify key-aroma and/or biologically active markers (even at trace level) and dedicated analytical methods have to be developed. Sampling of the volatile fraction entails the use of several approaches or techniques, which produce different samples that can be representative of the volatiles characterizing a vegetable matrix, e.g. headspace, essential oils and solvent extracts. Therefore, the choice of a suitable approach to analyze the composition of the volatile fraction of a plant material involves several factors including speed, ease of use, complete automation while avoiding, when possible, the use of solvents. This lecture is a short overview to show the importance of quali- and quantitative analysis of plants’ volatile fraction as a fundamental complementary step to a correct botanical identification of plant material: i) to authenticate and classify aromatic plants species (i.e. sage, thyme, … ); ii) to define and characterize plant chemotypes (i.e. Matricaria recutita L.) (2); iii) to detect adulterations (i.e. Mentha x piperita L., Citrus bergamia Risso et Poiteau) (3,4); iv) to discriminate plant samples in function of their geographical origin; v) to monitor the influence of environmental factors on plants and, as a consequence, on their chemical composition; vi) to check a correct processing (drying process, storage) of plant material; vii) to verify the presence of marker compounds in finished products (e.g. herbal teas). Examples will be reported to illustrate some of these points. 1) J. Bruneton, Pharmacognosie, Phytochimie, plantes medicinales, 4th ed. 2009, Lavoisier ed. 2) P. Rubiolo, F. Belliardo, C. Cordero, E. Liberto, B. Sgorbini, C. Bicchi (2006) Phytochem. Anal., 17, 217–225 3) J.S. Spencer, E. Dowd, W. Faas, Perfumer & Flavorist 22 (1997) 37-45 4) Citrus: The genus Citrus, G. Dugo and A. Di Giacomo (Eds.), 2002, Taylor & Francis ed.
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