Journal of Chemical Biology

, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 45–59 | Cite as

A review of characterization of tocotrienols from plant oils and foods

  • Haseeb Ahsan
  • Amjid Ahad
  • Waseem A. SiddiquiEmail author


Tocotrienols, members of the vitamin E family, are natural compounds found in a number of vegetable oils, wheat germ, barley and certain types of nuts and grains. Vegetable oils provide the best sources of these vitamin E forms, particularly palm oil and rice bran oil contain higher amounts of tocotrienols. Other sources of tocotrienols include grape fruit seed oil, oats, hazelnuts, maize, olive oil, buckthorn berry, rye, flax seed oil, poppy seed oil and sunflower oil. Tocotrienols are of four types, viz. alpha (α), beta (β), gamma (γ) and delta (δ). Unlike tocopherols, tocotrienols are unsaturated and possess an isoprenoid side chain. A number of researchers have developed methods for the extraction, analysis, identification and quantification of different types of vitamin E compounds. This article constitutes an in-depth review of the chemistry and extraction of the unsaturated vitamin E derivatives, tocotrienols, from various sources using different methods. This review article lists the different techniques that are used in the characterization and purification of tocotrienols such as soxhlet and solid–liquid extractions, saponification method, chromatography (thin layer, column chromatography, gas chromatography, supercritical fluid, high performance), capillary electrochromatography and mass spectrometry. Some of the methods described were able to identify one form or type while others could analyse all the analogues of tocotrienol molecules. Hence, this article will be helpful in understanding the various methods used in the characterization of this lesser known vitamin E variant.


Tocotrienols Extraction Saponification Chromatography Electrochromatography Mass spectrometry 



The authors would like to acknowledge and thank the reviewers for their critical reading, comments and suggestions for the improvement of manuscript.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Haseeb Ahsan
    • 1
  • Amjid Ahad
    • 2
  • Waseem A. Siddiqui
    • 2
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of DentistryJamia Millia IslamiaNew DelhiIndia
  2. 2.Lipid Metabolism Laboratory, Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of ScienceJamia Hamdard (Hamdard University)New DelhiIndia

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