Economic Botany

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 41-47

First online:

Coumarin in vanilla extracts: Its detection and significance

  • Robin J. Marles
  • , CÉsar M. Compadre
  • , Norman R. FarnsworthAffiliated withDepartment of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy, and Program for Collaborative Research in the Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, University of Illinois at Chicago

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Coumarin was a component of some commercial vanilla preparations until banned in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration in 1954 because of evidence of hepatotoxicity in animals. However, in the present investigation coumarin was detected by capillary column gas chromatography/mass spectrometry in Mexican vanilla extracts commercially available or introduced in the United States by tourists or travelers. The significance of the presence of coumarin in Mexican vanilla extracts is discussed in light of recent evidence suggesting a lack of significant coumarin toxicity in humans.