Asian Journal of ChemistryVol. 22, No. 4 (2010), 3153-3158
Chemical Analysis of Essential Oils from Turmeric
(Curcuma longa) Rhizome Through GC-MS
SHAGUFTA NAZ*, SAIQA ILYAS, ZAHIDA PARVEEN† and SUMERA JAVED
Botany Department, Lahore College for Women University, Lahore, Pakistan
The volatile oil of turmeric (Curcuma longa L., zingiberaceae) was
isolated from its rhizomes. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-
MS) was applied to the methanolic extract of C. longa. The chromato-
graphic analysis of oil showed 16 constituents of which, 6 compounds
contributing 70.0 % of the total oil constituents could be identified. The
compounds were identified on the basis of their fragmentation pattern
and matching with the data library. The most abundant components
were aromatic turmerone (25.3 %), α-tumerone (18.3 %) and curlone
(12.5 %). Other constituents are caryophyllene (2.26 %) and eucalyptol
(1.60 %). The component present in lowest amount is α-phellandrene
Key Words: Curcuma longa, Turmerone, Curlone, Zingiberaceae,
Zingiberaceae is among the plant families which are widely distributed throughout
the tropics, particularly in Southeast Asia. There are 200 species of this family
belonging to 20 genera. Turmeric has been used not only as a spice but as a natural
colorant, to flavor the food stuff and also as an herbal medicine for many centuries.
It is also an important medicinal plant whose fresh rhizomes and dried powder are
popular remedies of blood disorders, cold, cough, jaundice and various skin
diseases.Turmeric, Curcuma longa L. rhizomes, has been widely used for centuries
in indigenous medicine for the treatment of a variety of inflammatory conditions
and other diseases1. The wild turmeric is called Curcuma aromatica and the domestic
species is called C. longa2. Its powder has long been used as a spice, coloring agent,
cosmetic and medicinal agent in Asian and Eastern cultures3. It is very popular in
Asian medicine for the treatment of coryza, hepatic disorders and rheumatism4. It
is also used for hypercholesterolemia, arthritis, indigestion and liver problem since
long5. Research indicates that turmeric and its active components (volatile oil and
curcuminoids) have unique antioxidant, antitumorigenic, anticarcinogenic, antiin-
flammatory, antimutagenic, antiarthritic and antimicrobial properties as reviewed
†Centre for Applied Chemistry, PCSIR, Lahore, Pakistan.
Essential oils are volatile and fragrant substance of plants. They are obtained
from plants through steam distillation or other processes8. They may be present in
particular secretory parts. Generally these oils contain volatile substances which
are terpenes and their oxygenated derivatives usually known as camphors9,10. Chemical
constituents of turmeric rhizomes include volatiles and non-volatiles. The chemical
constituents of volatile oil were identified using GC and GC-MS and main components
are ar-tumerone, zingiberene, turmerone and curlone. The non-volatile compounds
are colouring agents and rich source of phenolics11. The aroma of the turmeric is
contributed by its steam volatile essential oils while the phenolic compounds,
curcumin and its analogues account for its bright yellow colour12.
Aromatic tumerone (20-30 %) was reported to be the major compound present
in turmeric volatile oil13, which is a mosquito repellent14 and may be an effective
drug for the treatment of respiratory disease15 and dermatophytosis16. Synthetic
tumerone appears to act as anticarcinogenic17. Antivenom activity of tumerone iso-
lated from turmeric has also been reported18. Recently, turmeric oil was found to be
both as antifungal19 and antibacterial20 agents. Defence responces in plants against
insects are generally triggered by volatiles21-23.
The rhizomes of Curcuma longa were collected from Ayub Agriculture Research
Extraction of essential oils: The cut pieces of rhizome were subjected to hydro-
Steam distillation: Known weight of rhizomes were taken in reaction vessel
and attached to steam generator. A water cool condenser was also attached with
reaction vessel. Steam generator produced the steam which passed through the
sample condensed and collected with essential oils. The oil was dried over anhydrous
sodium sulphate and stored at 4 ºC till GC-MS analysis was carried out. The yield
of the oil is calculated on the basis of fresh weight of sample.
GC-MS analysis: GC-MS of Varian, Saturn model 2000, equipped with ion
trap detector (ITD) was used for the identification of different components of es-
sential oil of Curcuma longa. Sample was injected on a DB-5MS (30 m × 0.25 mm
id, 0.25 µ film thickness) column. Helium was used as a carrier gas with a flow rate
of 7.0-9.5 psi and split ratio 1:5. The column temperature was maintained at 75 °C
for 5 min with a 2.5 °C rise/min to 250 °C.
Various components were identified by their retention time and peak enhancement
with standard samples in gas chromatographic mode and MS library search from
the derived mass fragmentation pattern of various components of the essential oil.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
The essential oil was extracted from rhizomes of Curcuma longa by hydro-
distillation. The yield of oil was 0.673 %. GC-MS analysis of turmeric revealed
the presence of 16 components. Out of which, six have been identified from their
3154 Naz et al. Asian J. Chem.
fragmentation pattern by mass spectroscopy (Table-1). The oil was found to be the
mixture of monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes. As reported by He et al.24, sesqui-
terpenoids are the major constituents of turmeric oil and ar-turmerone (25.3 %)
was identified as a major component followed by α-tumerone (18.3 %) and curlone
(12.5 %). These tumerones have similar chemical structures, physical properties
and molecular weights, even though they have different tastes25. For instance, it
was reported that ar-turmerone is the best local treatment for edema, necrosis and
local hemorrhage after Bothrops alternatus envenomation26. Moreover, ar-turmerone
has been shown to display antiplatelet activity and is a more potent platelet inhibitor
against platelet aggregation induced by collagen than aspirin27. In addition ar-
turmerone is assumed to improve insulin resistance and ameliorate type 2 diabetes
mellitus through the same biological mechanism as thiazolidinedione derivatives28.
Furthermore, the insect repellent and anti-feeding properties of Curcuma have been
attributed to turmerone29,30 and curcuminoids31.
GC-MS ANALYSIS OF ESSENTIAL OIL OF KASUR TURMERIC VARIETY
compounds R:T m.f. m.w.
(%) m/e Value
51 (5 %), 65 (7 %), 77 (37 %), 93 (100 %),
105 (4 %), 115 (2 %), 121 (3 %), 136 (29 %)
51 (6 %), 55 (48 %), 59 (18 %), 67 (35
%), 71 (66 %), 77 (12 %), 81 (90 %), 84 (68
%), 93 (69 %), 96 (39 %), 108 (100 %), 111
(86 %), 125 (16 %), 136 (13 %), 139 (81 %),
154 (92 %)
(7 %), 55 (26 %), 69 (59 %), 79 (70
%), 83 (4 %), 93 (94 %), 93 (94 %), 105 (62
%), 109 (17 %), 120 (45 %), 133 (100 %),
147 (37 %), 161 (43 %), 175 (13 %), 189 (27
%), 204 (9 %)
M+ 51 (3 %), 55 (22 %), 65 (6 %), 77 (
83 (100 %), 91 (27 %), 98 (4 %), 105 (53 %),
111 (14 %), 115 (8 %), 119 (67 %), 132 (15
%), 201 (24 %), 216 (32 %)
55 (23 %), 77 (26 %), 83 (88 %), 91 (36
%), 99 (5 %), 105 (100 %), 111 (31 %), 120
(55 %), 126 (6 %), 200 (8 %)
55 (13 %), 77 (9 %), 83 (29 %), 91 (17
%), 105 (19 %), 120 (100 %), 218 (4 %)
Eucaluptol (1.6 %), the monoterpene cyclic ether, was identified in Curcuma
extract. It is also known by a variety of synonyms: 1,8-cineol, limonene and cajeputol.
This component might contribute to the characteristic fresh and camphoraceous
fragrance and pungent taste of turmeric. As a result of this, Curcuma extracts could also
be incorporated in pharmaceutical formulations for use as an external applicant,
nasal spray, cosmetic, food flavouring and analgesic, as well as disinfectants32.
Vol. 22, No. 4 (2010) Chemical Analysis of Essential Oils from Turmeric 3155
α-Phellandrene (0.42 %) was found in very low amounts. Caryophyllene (2.26 %)
was also identified as natural bicyclic sesquiterpene. There is considerable quantitative
variation in the percentages of main components depending upon the cultivars from
which the oil is produced.
The present data represented essential oil composition of Pakistan turmeric
which had not been reported before while the oil composition of C. longa from its
various parts of the world has been studied extensively33. The essential oil from
turmeric rhizomes from Calicut, India34 having components of ar-tumerone (31.1 %),
tumerone (10.0 %), curlone (10.6 %) and ar-curcumerene (6.3 %). The chemical
analysis of rhizome oils of Malaysian C. domestica was determined35 which contained
significant amounts of α-tumerone (45.3 %), β-tumerone (13.5 %), linalool (14.9 %).
The major oil constituents of C. longa from northeastern region of India, Bhutan36
were α-tumerone (45.3 %), β-tumerone (13.5 %), linalool (14.9 %).
The rhizome oil of C. longa from northern plains of India was reported to
contain 59.7 % of ar-turmerone37 while the rhizome oil of another Indian chemotype38
was characterized by ar-tumerone (41.4 %), tumerone (29.5 %) and turmerol (20 %).
Other turmeric oils from India39 contained zingiberene (25.0 %) and ar-turmerone
(25.0 %). The major constituents of the rhizome oil40 were α-turmerone (44.1 %),
β-tumerone (18.5 %) and ar-turmerone (5.4 %).
Essential oils41 from rhizome of C. longa contained a lower concentration of
ar-turmerone (4.0-12.8 %). It was reported that GC-MS of hexane extract of turmeric
rhizome42 gave very different percentage of components e.g., ar-turmerone (2.6-
70.3 %), α-turmerone (trace-46.2 %) and zingiberene (trace-36.8 %).
The rhizome oil of C. longa of Chinese origin was analyzed by GC-MS43. The oil
was reported to contain 17 chemical constituents of which turmerone (24 %), ar-
turmerone (18 %) and germacrone (11 %) are the major compounds.
The best processing conditions to maximize the yields of essential oil and pigments,
as well as their contents of ar-turmerone, (α and β)-turmerone and the curcuminoids,
respectively have been reported. Autoclave pressure and distillation time were the
variables studied for the steam distillation process and the highest yield of essential
oil was 0.46 wt %44. The oil produced from 5-10 month old C. longa rhizomes that
were grown in Bhutan was analyzed using GC and GC-MS45. The major comp-
ounds were found to be ar-turmerone (16.7-25.7 %), α-turmerone (30.1-32.0 %)
and β-turmerone (14.7-18.4 %).
The metabolic profile of polar (methanol) and non-polar (hexane) extracts of
Curcuma domestica from Korea was established46. GC-MS of hexane fraction revealed
a high proportion of ar-turmerone (19.5 %), α-turmerone (20.1 %) and α-turmerone
The spectrum of α-turmerone47 shows the molecular ion at m/z 216, ions for
loss of methyl (m/z 201), α-cleavage to the aromatic ring (m/z 119) and α-cleavage
to the carbonyl (m/z 83). There are also two odd electron ions at m/z 132 and m/z
98 that result from McLafferty rearrangements.
3156 Naz et al. Asian J. Chem.
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(Received: 22 August 2009; Accepted: 2 January 2010) AJC-8252
3158 Naz et al. Asian J. Chem.