Elderflower surprise

Scientists at Kew Gardens have discovered compounds new to science in ordinary elderflower drinks.

10 Jun 2013

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Sambucus nigra inflorescence

Inflorescence of Sambucus nigra (Image: G. Kite)

While assessing the authenticity and quality of traded plant extracts during a project on ‘Quality botanical extracts for skin and health products’, funded by EPSRC and Procter & Gamble, Kew scientists were surprised to detect major chemical constituents in a commercial extract of elderflower (inflorescences of Sambucus nigra) that had not been reported in the scientific literature.

Following isolation of the compounds from elder inflorescences collected from Kew Gardens it was established that the compounds were derivatives of spermidines, some of which were new to science. The compounds were located in the pollen and provide useful markers to authenticate elderflower extracts.

The research reveals how new chemical discoveries are still possible not only from common British plants but even from the food and drink we consume, as the new compounds were readily detected in commercial elderflower drinks.

Item from Prof. Monique Simmonds (Head of Sustainable Uses Group, RBG Kew)
Kew Scientist, issue 43

Article Reference:

Kite, G.C., Larsson, S., Veitch, N.C., Porter, E.A., Ding, N. & Simmonds, M.S.J. (2013). Acyl spermidines in inflorescence extracts of elder (Sambucus nigra L., Adoxaceae) and elderflower drinks. J. Arig. Food. Chem. 61: 3501–3508.


Kew Science Project - Authentication and Chemical Fingerprinting of Economically Important Species

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