Phytochemical composition of Artemisia absinthium L.

Absinthe is historically described as a distilled, highly alcoholic beverage. It is an anise-flavoured spirit derived from botanicals, including the flowers and leaves of Artemisia absinthium L. (“grand wormwood”), together with green anise, sweet fennel, and other medicinal and culinary herbs.This study contributes to the process of domestication of Artemisia absinthium L. by going deeper into the understanding of its floral biology and its phenological, morphological and chemical variability. Ten wormwood accessions were described and compared, particularly to help in the selection of populations that are interesting for distillation and adapted to the Val-de-Travers’s soil and climate conditions. Phenological observations were focused on blooming stages (C0-C7), especially on stage C5 which is the harvest stage. Morphological observations were focused on relevant agronomic features that help distinguish the various accessions to facilitate the selection process.
The chemical composition of those ten wormwood accessions is discussed through several angles of approach. The evaluation of the rate in essential oil was made by steam distillation and quantification of the oil layer with the aim of observing the variations of the accessions within the framework of description and the selection process. The concentration of thujone was determined by the GC-¬MS method and by the TLC method. An organoleptic analysis has established the profile of each accession based on ten descriptors. The results achieved reflect an important phenological, morphological and chemical variability inside and between the accession.
The rate in essential oil ranges from 0.35% to 1.06%, and the variability of their colour lead to think that their chemical composition is very different. The results of the analysis on the concentration of thujone show great variability, and it is difficult to draw conclusions about the role of the genome and of the soil and climate factors in its production.
The phenological observations show big differences in the conditions for vernalisation needed for the flower initiation. They allow also to highlight a difference in the precocity of the accessions that bloomed. Finally, the experiment on the floral biology of wormwood. showed that its principal breeding system is cross-¬fertilization. This present study aimed at taking part in the domestication process of Artemisia absinthium L., and in the selection of an ecotype adapted to the conditions of the Val-de-Travers with the view to revalue its local production.

Authors: Bach Benoit1, Cleroux Marilyn1, Chappuis Charles1, Rebenaque Pierrick1, Deneulin Pascale1, Berthet Annabelle2, Vermeulen Hendrick2 and Delabays Nicolas2

1Changins, Viticulture and Oenology
2HEPIA, HES-SO University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland

*corresponding author: benoit.bach@changins.ch

Keywords: Artemisia absinthium; Thujone; essential oils; GC-MS; TLC

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