Phytochemical Profiling of Flavonoids, Phenolic Acids, Terpenoids, and Volatile Fraction of a Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) Extract

Molecules. 2016 Nov 19;21(11):1576. doi: 10.3390/molecules21111576.


This paper presents a comprehensive analysis of the phytochemical profile of a proprietary rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) extract rich in carnosic acid. A characterization of the (poly)phenolic and volatile fractions of the extract was carried out using mass spectrometric techniques. The (poly)phenolic composition was assessed by ultra-high performance liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry (UHPLC-ESI-MSn) and a total of 57 compounds were tentatively identified and quantified, 14 of these being detected in rosemary extract for the first time. The rosemary extract contained 24 flavonoids (mainly flavones, although flavonols and flavanones were also detected), 5 phenolic acids, 24 diterpenoids (carnosic acid, carnosol, and rosmanol derivatives), 1 triterpenoid (betulinic acid), and 3 lignans (medioresinol derivatives). Carnosic acid was the predominant phenolic compound. The volatile profile of the rosemary extract was evaluated by head space solid-phase microextraction (HS-SPME) linked to gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Sixty-three volatile molecules (mainly terpenes, alcohols, esters, aldehydes, and ketones) were identified. This characterization extends the current knowledge on the phytochemistry of Rosmarinus officinalis and is, to our knowledge, the broadest profiling of its secondary metabolites to date. It can assist in the authentication of rosemary extracts or rosemary-containing products or in testing its bioactivity. Moreover, this methodological approach could be applied to the study of other plant-based food ingredients.

Keywords: HS-SPME/GC-MS; UHPLC-ESI-MSn; phytochemical characterization; polyphenol; rosemary; volatile compound.

MeSH terms

  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Flavonoids / chemistry*
  • Hydroxybenzoates / chemistry*
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Molecular Structure
  • Phytochemicals / chemistry*
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry*
  • Rosmarinus / chemistry*
  • Terpenes / chemistry*
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / chemistry*


  • Flavonoids
  • Hydroxybenzoates
  • Phytochemicals
  • Plant Extracts
  • Terpenes
  • Volatile Organic Compounds
  • phenolic acid