Pharmacokinetics and bioavailability of quercetin glycosides in humans

J Clin Pharmacol. 2001 May;41(5):492-9. doi: 10.1177/00912700122010366.


Due to its potentially beneficial impact on human health, the polyphenol quercetin has come into the focus of medicinal interest. However, data on the bioavailability of quercetin after oral intake are scarce and contradictory. Previous investigations indicate that the disposition of quercetin may depend on the sugar moiety of the glycoside or the plant matrix. To determine the influence of the sugar moiety or matrix on the absorption of quercetin, two isolated quercetin glycosides and two plant extracts were administered to 12 healthy volunteers in a four-way crossover study. Each subject received an onion supplement or quercetin-4'-O-glucoside (both equivalent to 100 mg quercetin), as well as quercetin-3-O-rutinoside and buckwheat tea (both equivalent to 200 mg quercetin). Samples were analyzed by HPLC with a 12-channel coulometric array detector. In human plasma, only quercetin glucuronides, but no free quercetin, could be detected. There was no significant difference in the bioavailability and pharmacokinetic parameters between the onion supplement and quercetin-4'-O-glucoside. Peak plasma concentrations were 2.3 +/- 1.5 microg x mL(-1) and 2.1 +/- 1.6 microg x mL(-1) (mean +/- SD) and were reached after 0.7 +/- 0.2 hours and 0.7 +/- 0.3 hours, respectively. After administration of buckwheat tea and rutin, however, peak plasma levels were--despite the higher dose-only 0.6 +/- 0.7 microg x mL(-1) and 0.3 +/- 0.3 microg x mL(-1), respectively. Peak concentrations were reached 4.3 +/- 1.8 hours after administration of buckwheat tea and 7.0 +/- 2.9 hours after ingestion of rutin. The terminal elimination half-life was about 11 hours for all treatments. Thus, the disposition of quercetin in humans primarily depends on the sugar moiety. To a minor extent, the plant matrix influences both the rate and extent of absorption in the case of buckwheat tea administration compared with the isolated compound. The site of absorption seems to be different for quercetin-4'-O-glucoside and quercetin-3-O-rutinoside. The significance of specific carriers on the absorption of quercetin glycosides, as well as specific intestinal beta-glucosidases, needs to be further evaluated.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Area Under Curve
  • Biological Availability
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Fagopyrum / metabolism
  • Female
  • Flavonols*
  • Glucosides / pharmacokinetics*
  • Half-Life
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolic Clearance Rate
  • Onions / metabolism
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacokinetics*
  • Quercetin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Quercetin / pharmacokinetics*
  • Rutin / pharmacokinetics


  • Flavonols
  • Glucosides
  • Plant Extracts
  • 3-methylquercetin
  • Rutin
  • Quercetin
  • spiraeoside