The power of flower tea: Components of Coreopsis tinctoria mapped out for the first time

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  • Published: Sep 1, 2016
  • Author: Ryan De Vooght-Johnson
  • Channels: Laboratory Informatics / Chemometrics & Informatics
thumbnail image: The power of flower tea: Components of Coreopsis tinctoria mapped out for the first time

One’s cup of tea

The snow chrysanthemum can be ground up and brewed with steaming-hot water to make a flower tea. Sipping on this, advocates say, ameliorates diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. But what are the active components responsible for these actions?

In many corners of the world, the snow chrysanthemum—or Coreopsis tinctoria according to botanists—is ground up and brewed with steaming-hot water to make a flower tea. Sipping on this, advocates say, ameliorates diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. But what are the active components responsible for these actions? We know that at least the flower heads are rich in flavonoids. These are natural compounds loaded with hydroxyl (OH) groups, which sacrifice themselves to protect us against unstable oxidants. Their presence could explain the tea’s reported health qualities.

But it is the bud from which many commercial teas are made from. What phytochemicals may be bundled within the bud? Or indeed in other parts of the plant: leaves, stems, and seeds…? Understanding their molecular make-up—and the differences between the infantile bud and mature flower—is crucial for their ‘proper applications’, Lam explains in the Journal of Separation Science.

Driven by curiosity, scientists based at the University of Macau in China teamed up with experts at the Inspection Institute of China and Agriculture Development Ltd. to answer this question.

MAE-HPLC-DAD

First of all, Lam and colleagues procured 13 botanics to study. These were samples from the flowers, buds, seeds, stems, and leaves of C. tinctoria. They also compiled the flowers from its close relative—the C. morifolium—to scrutinise. They then extracted the cells contents, first using microwave-assisted extraction (MAE) to rupture the cell wall from the inside out, and secondly by a mixture of water and ethanol to mop up the polar and non-polar contents.

The Coreopsis components were then loaded onto a C18 organo-silane column and resolved over a 25-minute, slightly acidic reverse-phase gradient. Finally, a diode array detector (DAD) detected the spectral emissions of the 13 phytochemicals within the 285–380 nm realm of UV light. Merely detecting these components would limit any analyses, and so the researchers quantitated each level in reference to a curve of six standards. Finally, the scientists crunched the data, plotting samples based on their likenesses and differences to one another.

Phytotomy map

Two flavonoids—flavanomarein and marein— accounted for greater than 54% of the 13 phytochemicals analysed. Whilst the ratio of these two was similar between the sampled flowers and bud, the reduced total flavonoid content in the latter suggests that the flowers are much richer in these potent antioxidants. ‘Different parts (flowers, buds, seeds, stems, and leaves) of C. tinctoria were obviously different,’ write the authors.

Lam also profiled two species of the Coreopsis genus. Would this taxonomical divergence be evident in the data? The data were clustered and the profiles did indeed illustrate that C. morifolium was notably distinct from C. tinctoria.

Scientists have, for the first time, mapped the abundance of phytochemicals by phytotomy, which could pave towards empirical evidence in support of its supposed pro-health benefits. What’s more, this data, the authors conclude, will inform the ‘rational application’ of different parts of Coreopsis tinctoria.

Related Links

J. Sep. Sci., 2016, 39, 2919–2927. Lam et al. Chemical characteristics of different parts of Coreopsis tinctoria in China using microwave-assisted extraction and high-performance liquid chromatography followed by chemometric analysis.

Article by Ryan De Vooght-Johnson

The views represented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of John Wiley and Sons, Ltd.

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