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P for Phytochemistry, P for Perfumery

Updated: Jul 24, 2021

Yagnit Vadhel and Sarthak Jain,

St. Xavier's College (Autonomous),

Mumbai, Maharashtra, India


Perfumery and Phytochemistry have something more in common apart from the initial letter between the two. Perfumery is related to the study of aromatic odour and the materials used to produce the same. Materials could be divided into either natural or artificial products. Artificial products are produced in laboratories and natural product plants owe their fragrance to the presence of traces of essential oils in different parts. Numerous fragrance materials are present in roots, stems, barks, leaves, flowers, fruits and heartwoods. Gums, balsams and oleoresins are also valuable raw materials for perfumes by virtue of their tenacious but soft odour. Several processes like hydro-distillation, steam distillation, hydro-diffusion, enfleurage, maceration, expression and solvent extraction are available for the extraction of aroma principles. Application of these processes, either singly or in combination, depends upon the nature of the material and of the essential oil or absolute intended to be recovered. The fragrant oil recovered from the plants is known as essential oils. Production of essential oils has been developing into a very profitable agroindustry during the last few years. It has provided diversification in the agricultural sector and is gaining popularity on the rural front also. Due to the availability of essential oils more freely in the market, not only their direct uses as attars, floral and aromatic waters, perfumery grade alcohol and flavour encapsulation but also the end uses have been widening. Accordingly, the essential oils are today used in soaps, perfumery, cosmetics, incense sticks, disinfectants, deodorants, mosquito repellents, flavouring of foods and pharmaceuticals and a range of allied products. Since such materials are obtained from plants, it helps us to come to a conclusion that perfumery and phytochemistry have something more in common apart from the initial letter P.

The term phytochemistry refers to a study of the secondary metabolites present in the plants. It covers structural, compositions, the biosynthetic pathways in plants and their function and mechanisms of action in the biological systems. Due to its study, many newer and newer plant-based crude drugs have been discovered in the current times. The term Phytochemistry comprises of 2 words phyton means plant and chemistry meaning study of chemicals together it is defined as a systematic study of plant-based secondary metabolites which are chemicals and hence the name phytochemistry.

The origin of the term phytochemistry is very old times and are thought to be responsible for the organoleptic properties such as colour, taste, flavour, aroma and odour of certain plant parts. Such as the smell of garlic bulbs and ginger rhizome and the deep purple colour of blueberries. The curative potential of some plant that was commonly available at that time and their usage by the people arose great curiosity in the scientists which then led to the development of the field of Phytochemistry and taxonomists and also plant biologist has had a great impact on the identification and validation of chemicals present in plants. Order to locate a particular plant and its Phytochemical properties. In order to study and discover the novel chemicals present inside specific parts of that plant and its mode of action inside a living biological system and also the curative effects are shown by the reaction between the phytochemical and the enzymes present inside various biological systems plants are a rich source of both primary and secondary metabolites. The primary metabolites are those which are required by the plant in order to maintain the overall growth and development of the entire plant. The secondary metabolites are those which are synthesized by the plant in order to protect them from the external environment like extremes of temperatures and light conditions pests etc however man has identified those secondary metabolites like zingiberene in ginger which is very effective against a wide range of diseases.

The phytochemicals are classified into the following types:

1: Alkaloids

2: Tannins

3: Phenols and Esters

4: Glycosides

5: Fixed and volatile oils.

All of them are of great medicinal and other importance and have greatly been used in various fields of sciences for the betterment of mankind. The main focus of our blog is the use of phytochemicals in the field of perfumery and as a source of essential oils as a source of herbal perfumes.

Fragrances have been of great importance to the entire human race because of the fact that they soothe not only our olfactory senses but also our brain. Imagine a day without applying Perfume and going to our workplace. A person like me cannot live without them whatever may be the brand of the perfume, it definitely will contain some of the other Phytochemical especially the volatile oils which are used to impart a specific aroma to the perfume. Now the question coming to our minds will be how can we smell a particular phytochemical? The answer is very simple that it interacts with the olfactory receptors of the olfactory lobes present in the frontal region of our brain. The phytochemicals, in the forms of volatile oils through many biochemical reactions, reaches our brain and are then intercepted by it in the form of nerve impulses.

Role of phytochemistry in the field of perfumery: -

Some of the plants commonly used as a source of perfumery are as follows, along with their complete botanical names and the families to which they belong to:

● Rosmarinus officinalis – rosemary family lamiaceae

● Vetiveria zizaniodes vetiver family poaceae

● Cymbopogon martini-palmarosa family poaceae

● Lavandula SPP lavender lamiaceae

● Cymbopogon SPP - lemongrass family poaceae

● And many more

They are present in various concentrations in order to enhance the overall quality and aroma of the perfume.

Plants like cinnamon, rose, jasmine and sandalwood along with many such aromatic plants containing volatile oils that are present in specific parts of a specific species of a plant

Due to recent advancements in the field of analytical chemistry and modern instrumentation techniques, more and more research in the field of phytochemistry is possible for discovering new phytochemicals.






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