Economic Botany

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 41–47 | Cite as

Coumarin in vanilla extracts: Its detection and significance

  • Robin J. Marles
  • CÉsar M. Compadre
  • Norman R. Farnsworth


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.


Coumarin Vanillin Economic Botany Hepatotoxicity Vanilla 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Literature Cited

  1. Anonymous. 1906. Tinctura vanillini composite. The national formulary of unofficial preparations. 3rd ed, p. 187. American Pharmaceutical Assoc., Baltimore, MD.Google Scholar
  2. — 1985. Current prices of chemicals and related materials. Chem. Marketing Reporter 227: 50–58.Google Scholar
  3. Cohen, A. 1979. Critical review of the toxicology of coumarin with special reference to interspecies differences in metabolism and hepatotoxic response and their significance to man. Food Cosmet. Toxicol. 17:277–289.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Courcelles, C, S. Rey, F. Carbonel, A. Dupont, M. Vandoorn, and P. Zelbstein. 1978. Vanille et produits “a goût de vanille”: un nouveau système de développement pour les chromatogrammes en couches minces. Ann. Falsif. Expert. Chim. 71:121–128.Google Scholar
  5. Feeny, F. J. 1964. Determination of vanillin by ultraviolet absorption. J. Assoc. Off. Agric. Chem. 47:555–557.Google Scholar
  6. Galetto, W. G., and P. G. Hoffman. 1978. Some benzyl ethers present in the extract of Vanilla (Vanilla planifolia). J. Agric. Food Chem. 26:195–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Hernández, F. 1651. Rerum medicarum Novae Hispaniae thesaurus seu plantarum, animalium, mineralium, Mexicanorum historia, p. 38. Typographeio Vitalis Mascardi, Rome.Google Scholar
  8. Herrmann, A., and M. Stöckli. 1982. Rapid control of vanilla-containing products using highperformance liquid chromatography. J. Chromatogr. 246:313–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hopkins, H. 1983. Mexican vanilla no bargain. FDA Consumer, October 1983:11.Google Scholar
  10. Jürgens, U. 1981. Zur hochdruckflüssigchromatographischen Analyse von Aromen: Untersuchung von Grundstoffen und Getränken sowie von Vanille- und Vanillin-Zuckern in Kleinpackungen. Deutsche Lebensmut.-Rundschau 77:211–213.Google Scholar
  11. Kahan, S., and J. Fitelson. 1964. Chromatographie detection of flavor additives in vanilla extract. J. Assoc. Off. Agric. Chem. 47:551–555.Google Scholar
  12. Lake, B. G. 1984. Investigations into the mechanism of coumarin-induced hepatotoxicity in the rat. Arch. Toxicol., Suppl. 7:16–29.Google Scholar
  13. Magida, P. 1984. Mexican vanilla poses unsafe risk of poison. Chicago Tribune, 21 March, sect. 7, p. 4B.Google Scholar
  14. Martin, G. E., J. F. Feeny, and F. P. Scaringelli. 1964. Determination of vanillin and ethyl vanillin by gas-liquid chromatography. J. Assoc. Off. Agric. Chem. 47:561–562.Google Scholar
  15. Merat, E., and J. Vogel. 1976. Quelques considérations sur les méthodes spectrometriques de dosage des constituants d’arômes de vanille. Mitt. Geb. Lebensmitteluntersuch. Hyg. 67:438–447.Google Scholar
  16. O’Reilly, R. 1980. Anticoagulant, antithrombotic, and thrombolytic drugs.In A. G. Gilman, L. Goodman, and A. Gilman, eds., The pharmacological basis of therapeutics, 6th ed, p. 1353. Macmillan, New York.Google Scholar
  17. Rother, R. 1885. Tincture of vanilla. Amer. J. Pharm. October 1885:500-502.Google Scholar
  18. Schlack, J., and J. Dicecco. 1974. Gas-liquid Chromatographie quantitative determination of vanillin and ethyl vanillin in foods. J. Assoc. Off. Agric. Chem. 57:329–331.Google Scholar
  19. Sengupta, P., A. R. Sen, A. Bose, and T. V. Mathew. 1973. Detection of coumarin in vanilla flavoured food by TLC. Res. & Industr. (New Delhi) 18:96–97.Google Scholar
  20. Sullivan, G. 1981a. Examination of Mexican vanilla extracts for coumarin adulteration: Part I. Veterin. Human Toxicol. 23:89–91.Google Scholar
  21. — 1981b. Examination of Mexican vanilla extracts for coumarin adulteration: Part II. Veterin. Human Toxicol. 23:161–163.Google Scholar
  22. — 1981c. Examination of Mexican vanilla extracts for coumarin adulteration: Part III-Quantitative determination of coumarin. Veterin. Human Toxicol. 23:249–251.Google Scholar
  23. — 1982. Occurrence of umbelliferone in the seeds ofDipteryx odorata (Aubl.) Willd. J. Agric. Food Chem. 30:609–610.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. — 1984. Major aromatic constituents in Mexican vanilla extracts. Texas J. Sei. 36:17-23. Vande Casteele, K., H. Geiger, and C. Van Sumere. 1983. Separation of phenolics (benzoic acids, cinnamic acids, phenylacetic acids, quinic acid esters, benzaldehydes and acetophenones, miscellaneous phenolics) and coumarins by reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography. J. Chromatogr. 258:111–124.Google Scholar
  25. Vanhaelen, M., and R. Vanhaelen-Fastré. 1980. High-performance liquid, gas-liquid and thin-layer chromatography of naturally occurring flavonoids, phenolics, and related compounds. J. Chromatogr. 187:255–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ximenez, F. 1615. Cuatro libros de la naturaleza, y virtudes de las plantas, p. 33–35. Casa de la Viuda de Diego López Daualos, Mexico.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY 10458 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robin J. Marles
  • CÉsar M. Compadre
  • Norman R. Farnsworth
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy, and Program for Collaborative Research in the Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of PharmacyUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicago

Personalised recommendations