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journal of functional foods 18 (2015) 811–819

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Spices and herbs: Natural sources of

antioxidants – a mini review

Milda E. Embuscado *
Materials and Process Technology, Applied Research, McCormick & Company, Inc., Hunt Valley, MD, USA


Article history: Spices and herbs are rich sources of powerful antioxidants. Spices and herbs have been used
Received 17 October 2014 for flavour, colour and aroma for more than 2000 years. They have also been used for pres-
Received in revised form 3 March ervation of foods and beverages primarily due to their phytochemicals. The antioxidants
2015 in spices and herbs are very effective because they possess excellent antioxidant activity.
Accepted 4 March 2015 The spices and herbs have been used as antioxidants as whole or ground spice/herb, ex-
Available online 1 April 2015 tracts, encapsulated or as emulsions. Aside from their efficacy as antioxidants, spices and
herbs are classified as all natural, an attractive quality for consumers. Thus, spices and herbs
Keywords: may be used as a means to control lipid oxidation in foods. Furthermore, the future of spices
Spices and herbs and herbs as effective antioxidants is discussed and expected trends are summarized.
Natural antioxidants © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Synthetic antioxidants
Lipid oxidation
Antioxidant activity


1. Introduction ...................................................................................................................................................................................... 811

2. Classification of antioxidants ........................................................................................................................................................ 812
3. Differences between spices and herbs ......................................................................................................................................... 812
4. Antioxidants from spices and herbs ............................................................................................................................................ 813
4.1. Mechanism of action ............................................................................................................................................................ 813
4.2. Antioxidant compounds from spices and herbs .............................................................................................................. 814
4.3. Applications in food products ............................................................................................................................................. 816
5. Conclusions ....................................................................................................................................................................................... 816
References ......................................................................................................................................................................................... 818

combination of an element or compound with oxygen, hence

1. Introduction the term oxidation. It comes from the French word oxider. The
word oxide was coined by Guyton de Morveau and Antoine
Antioxidants are substances that prevent oxidation of other Lavoisier, both French chemists, from oxygene and acide in 1787
compounds. One of the classic definitions of oxidation is (Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper). These

* Materials and Process Technology, Applied Research, McCormick & Company, Inc., Hunt Valley, MD, USA. Tel.: +410-527-6009; fax: +410-
E-mail address: Milda_Embuscado@mccormick.com.
1756-4646/© 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
812 journal of functional foods 18 (2015) 811–819

two words were combined to form the word oxide. Oxidation high content of phenolic compounds serve as strong antioxi-
and reduction occur side by side and thus the reaction is known dants (Cuvelier, Berset, & Richard, 1994; Pizzale, Bortolomeazzi,
as a redox reaction. Oxidation therefore means gain of oxygen Vichi, Uberegger, & Conte, 2002; Zheng & Wang, 2001). Princi-
while reduction is loss of oxygen. The meaning of oxide has dif- pal component and hierarchical cluster analysis were employed
ferent meanings depending on the areas of science. to classify different spices based on in vitro antioxidant ac-
Lipid oxidation is a deleterious chemical reaction that occurs tivity and individual polyphenolic antioxidants compounds
in foods that renders them inedible. This brings about devel- (Hossain, Patras, Barry-Ryan, Martin-Diana, & Brunton, 2011).
opment of rancid flavour and rancid aroma that makes the The classification was achieved based on global antioxidant
foods unpalatable and unacceptable. Oxidative rancidity is a activity assays such as 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH),
major cause of food quality deterioration and product rejec- oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC), ferric reducing an-
tion and can lead to the formation of undesirable off-flavours tioxidant power (FRAP), microsomal lipid peroxidation (MLP)
and off-odours as well as harmful compounds (Decker, Elias, and 2,2′-azinobis(3-ethylbenzothiazoline-6-sulphonic acid)
& McClements, 2010). In addition to product quality loss due (ABTS), levels of different polyphenolic compounds (gallic acid,
to development of rancid flavour, changes in colour and texture carnosol, carnosic acid, caffeic acid, rosmarinic acid, luteolin-
and consumer acceptance, there is also nutritive quality losses 7-O-glucoside, apigenin-7-O-glucoside) and total phenols. These
due to degradation of essential fatty acids and vitamins. As tests were applied on rosemary, oregano, marjoram, sage, basil,
mentioned above, there are health risks associated with lipid thyme, fennel, celery, cumin and parsley, and rosemary showed
or oil oxidation due to the formation of toxic compounds when the highest antioxidant activity measured by the DPPH assay
fats and oil undergo oxidative degradation. These oxidation whereas oregano had the highest activity in terms of the ORAC
products can cause damage in living organisms as well as test. Clove extracts were found to possess antioxidant activ-
mutagenesis and carcinogenesis (e.g., lipid peroxide, ity comparable to synthetic antioxidants against DPPH radicals
malondialdehyde or MDA). and formation of peroxides (Ivanovic, Dmitrijevic-Brankovic,
To prevent food degradation due to oxidation, employ- Misic, Ristic, & Zizovic, 2013). Combining 0.6 and 5% of oregano
ment of antioxidants has become a necessity for food products extract with the clove extracts improved their antioxidant ac-
which are sensitive to this type of chemical change. Phenolic tivity (Ivanovic et al., 2013) with respect to the extract from pure
compounds, ascorbic acid, carotenoids, some protein-based clove. This study showed the great potential of supercritical
compounds, Maillard reaction products, phopholipids and clove extract as a natural functional ingredient and as an an-
sterols are the natural antioxidants found in foods (Choe & Min, tioxidant to reduce undesirable flavour notes especially in
2009). Thus, food phenolics render antioxidant activity mainly combination with oregano extracts (Ivanovic et al., 2013).
due to their role as reducing agents, hydrogen donors, and
singlet oxygen quenchers. Some phenolics also have the ability
to chelate metal ions which act as catalysts in oxidation re- 2. Classification of antioxidants
actions. Flavonoids are natural polyhydroxylated aromatic
compounds that are widely distributed in plants (e.g., fruits,
Antioxidants are compounds that inhibit or delay onset of oxi-
vegetables, spices and herbs). Flavonoids have the ability to scav-
dation and may be classified as natural or synthetic (Shahidi
enge free radicals, including hydroxyl, peroxyl and superoxide
& Zhong, 2010). There is an increasing demand for natural an-
radicals and can form complexes with catalytic metal ions ren-
tioxidants due to safety concerns for synthetic antioxidants,
dering them inactive. It has also been found that flavonoids
in addition to increasing consumer preference for natural prod-
can inhibit lipoxygenase and cyclooxygenase enzymes, the
ucts, clean label and less usage of food additives in food
enzymes responsible for development of oxidative rancidity
products. Due to their natural antioxidant components, spices
in foods. Spices and herbs are excellent sources of antioxi-
and herbs are great sources of antioxidants for food preser-
dants and have a long history of safe usage. More than 5000
vation. There are additional advantages of using natural
years ago, the ancient Egyptians used spices and herbs in their
antioxidants from spices and herbs. These include their health
food, for medicinal purposes and for mummification in which
benefits and that they can be readily assimilated by the body.
they used a blend of spices such as cumin, cinnamon and onion,
They can also be labeled as spices or natural flavours (i.e., clean
among others.
labels). Synthetic antioxidants on the other hand may cause
Spices and herbs are rich sources of phytochemicals (Shan,
adverse effects in humans and may not contribute addi-
Cai, Sun, & Corke, 2005; Srinivasan, 2014; Surh, 2002; Zheng
tional nutritional benefits. Table 1 shows the different classes
& Wang, 2001). Phytochemicals are a large group of bioactives
of antioxidants, examples of each and how they function in
derived from plants which have potential protective effects
inhibiting lipid oxidation.
against diseases. This group consists of flavonoids and other
phenolic compounds, carotenoids, plant sterols, glucosinolates
and other sulphur-containing compounds. There are more than
6000 known flavonoids (Jaganath & Crozier, 2010). Phenolic com- 3. Differences between spices and herbs
pounds have various functions in the plant such as structural,
defence, as attractants for pollinators and seed-dispersing Spices come from different parts of a plant other than the leaves
animals. Plants also produce these substances to protect them- while herbs come from leaves of a plant. Spices and herbs can
selves against UV light for their survival and for adaptation be classified into various groups based on flavour/taste, tax-
to their environment. Several studies have demonstrated that onomy or part of the plant where they came from. Based on
spices and herbs such as rosemary, sage, oregano with their flavour, spices and herbs can be classified into 4 groups: hot
journal of functional foods 18 (2015) 811–819 813

Table 1 – Different classes of antioxidants. Table 3 – Antioxidant compounds in spices and herbs*.
Class of Examples Function Spice Antioxidant compounds
Clove Phenolic acids (gallic acid), flavonol glucosides,
Free radical BHA (Butylated hydroxyanisole) Block free phenolic volatile oils (eugenol, acetyl eugenol),
scavengers BHT (Butylated hydroxytoluene) radicals by tannins
TBHQ (tert-Butylhydroquinone) donating a Ginger Shogoal, gingerol
Propyl gallate hydrogen atom Mace Myristphenone
Tocopherols Marjoram Beta-carotene, beta-sitosterol, caffeic-acid,
Extracts from spices and herbs carvacrol, eugenol, hydroquinone, linalyl-acetate
(rosemary, clove, sage, oregano) plant 3–17, myrcene, rosmarinic-acid, terpinen-4-ol
Oxygen Ascorbic acid React with Nutmeg Myristphenone, phenolic volatile oils, phenolic
scavenger Erythorbic acid oxygen acid (caffeic acid), flavanols (catechin)
Ascorbates Oregano Caffeic acid, p-coumaric acid, rosmarinic acid,
Sulphites, bisulphites caffeoyl derivatives, cavacrol, flavonoids
Ascorbic palmitate Red pepper Beta-carotene fruit, beta-sitosterol plant, caffeic
Chelating Citric acid Sequester/ acid campesterol, camphene fruit, capsaicin fruit,
agents EDTA chelate metal capsanthin fruit, chlorogenic-acid fruit, eugenol
(Ethylenediaminetetraacetic ions capable of fruit, gamma-terpinene fruit, hesperidin fruit,
acid) catalysing myristic acid
Phosphates oxidation Rosemary Carnosol, 12-O-methylcarnosic, rosmanol, caffeic
acid, rosmarinic acid, caffeoyl derivatives, phenolic
diterpenes (carnosic acid), carnosol, epirosmanol,
Table 2 – Sources of spices and herbs. Sage Rosmanol, epirosmanol, phenolic acids (rosmarinic
acid), phenolic diterpenes (carnosic acid),
Part of the plant Spice/herb
Leaves Basil, oregano, bay leaf, thyme, tarragon Sesame seed Sesaminol, α-tocopherol, sesamol
Bark Cinnamon, cassia Turmeric Curcumin, 4-hydroxycinnamoylmethane
Seed Fennel, fenugreek, dill mustard Thyme Phenolic acids (gallic acid, caffeic acid, rosmarinic
Flower/bud, pistil Clove, saffron acid), thymol, phenolic diterpenes, flavonoids
Fruits/berries Clove, chilli, black pepper, allspice
* From various sources.
Bulbs Onion, garlic, leek
Root Ginger, turmeric
Aril Mace

oxidative rancidity (aldehydes, acids, ketones, and alcohols)

spices (black and white peppers, Cayenne pepper, mustard, chil- impart the harsh flavours and odours that render foods ined-
lies), mild flavour spices (paprika, coriander), aromatic spices ible and are rejected by consumers. Several studies have
(clove, cumin, dill fennel, nutmeg, mace, cinnamon) and aro- demonstrated that spices and herbs such as rosemary, sage,
matic herbs and vegetables (thyme, basil, bay leaf, marjoram, oregano have high antioxidant activities (Cuvelier et al., 1994;
shallot, onion, garlic). Table 2 shows the part of the plant from Pizzale et al., 2002; Zheng & Wang, 2001). Shan et al. (2005) iden-
which different spices originate. Based on taxonomic classi- tified that cumin contained caffeic acid, kaempferol, other
fication, spices and herbs fall under the class Angiospermae flavonoids, volatile and essential oils and coumarins as rep-
or the flowering plants. Spices and herbs are natural sources resentative components of its phenolics. Table 3 shows the
of flavours and colours and they have also been used for me- different antioxidant compounds found in spices and herbs.
dicinal purposes for a very long time. They are one of the best
sources of natural antioxidants because they contain potent
compounds that have been shown to impart antioxidative effect 4.1. Mechanism of action
in food.
Antioxidants provide protection against oxidation (Amorati, Foti,
& Valgimigli, 2013). The different factors which affect lipid oxi-
dation include the presence of oxygen and transition metal ions,
4. Antioxidants from spices and herbs moisture, heat and light. To prevent, minimize or slow down
the rate of lipid oxidation, oxygen and metal catalysts must
Oxidative rancidity occurs when fats and oils or lipid-containing be removed, or sequestered to render them unreactive. The food
foods undergo oxidation. This chemical reaction is respon- prone to oxidation must be stored at low temperatures and/
sible for the development of off-odours and off-flavours in many or shielded from light.
foods that renders them rancid, characterized by sharp, of- Table 4 summarizes the antioxidant compounds isolated
fensive odours and tastes. These foods may actually be unfit from herbs and spices and their mode of action in inhibiting
for consumption. When the fat or oil contained in foods reacts or slowing down oxidation of fats and oils in foods. Most of
with atmospheric oxygen, peroxides and hydroperoxides are the antioxidants from spices and herbs act by reacting with
formed and finally carbonyl compounds are produced as sec- free radicals created during the initiation stage of autoxida-
ondary oxidation products. These reaction products from tion. Others form complexes with metal ions.
814 journal of functional foods 18 (2015) 811–819

Table 4 – Antioxidants isolated from herbs and spice*.

Spice/herb Scientific name Antioxidant compounds Mode of action
Rosemary Rosemarinus officinalis Carnosol, carnosic acid, rosmanol, rosmadial, diterpenes (epirosmanol, Scavenge superoxide
isorosmanol, rosmaridiphenol, rosmariquinone, rosmarinic acid) radicals, lipid antioxidant
and metal chelator
Sage Salvia officinalis L. Carnosol, carnosic acid, rosmanol, rosmadial, methyl and ethyl esters of Free radical scavenger
carnosol, rosmarinic acid
Oregano Origanum vulgaris Rosmarinic acid, caffeic acid, protocatechuic acid, 2-caffeoyloxy-3-[2-(4- Free radical scavenger
hydroxybenzyl)-4,5-dihydroxy] phenylpropionic acid; flavonoids – apigen,
eriodictyol, dihydroquercetin, dihydrokaempherol; cavacrol, tymol
Thyme Thymus vulgaris L. Thymol, cavacrol, ρ-Cumene-2,3-diol, phenolic acids (gallic acid, caffeic Free radical scavenger
acid, rosmarinic acid), phenolic diterpenes, flavonoids
Ginger Zingiber officinale Gingerol, shogaol, zingerone Free radical scavenger
Turmeric Curcuma domestica L. Curcumins, 4-hydroxycinnamoyl methane Free radical scavenger
Black pepper Piper nigrum L. Kaempferol, rhamnetin, quercetin Free radical scavenger
Chili pepper Capsicum frutescence L. Capsaicin, capsaicinol Free radical scavenger
Clove Eugenia caryophyllata Phenolic acids (gallic acid), flavonol glucosides, phenolic volatile oils Free radical scavenger,
(eugenol, acetyl eugenol, isoeugenol), tannins metal chelator
Marjoram Majorana hortensis Beta-carotene, beta-sitosterol, caffeic-acid, carvacrol, eugenol, Free radical scavenger
hydroquinone, linalool-acetate plant 3–17, myrcene, rosmarinic-acid,
Cumin Cumimum cymimum Cuminal, γ-terpinene, pinocarveol, linalool, 1-methyl-2-(1- Free radical scavenger,
methylethyl)benzene, carotol metal chelator
* From various sources

4.2. Antioxidant compounds from spices and herbs discontinuing the use of ABTS and DPPH radicals for measur-
ing radical quenching, redirecting them instead to distinguishing
Antioxidant activity, antioxidant efficacy or efficiency of spices electron transfer reaction mechanisms (Schaich et al., 2015).
and herbs can be determined by employing several analyti- A summary of antioxidant activity of spices and herbs is
cal methods. The most frequently used analytical tests are DPPH shown in Table 5. Based on published scientific literature, FRAP,
(2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl), FRAP (ferric reducing antioxi- DPPH and total phenolics contents were the common analyti-
dant power), ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity), total cal methods employed. FRAP or Ferric Reducing Antioxidant
phenolics content, ABTS (2,2′-azino-bis(3-ethylbenzothiazoline- Power measures the reduction of ferric 2, 4, 6-tripyridyl-S-
6-sulphonic acid)), CUPRAC (cupric reducing antioxidant triazine (TPTZ) to a coloured solution (blue) which is measured
capacity), TRAP (total radical-trapping antioxidant param- at 595 nm using a spectrophotometer. FRAP measures reduc-
eter), TEAC (Trolox equivalent antioxidant capacity) and others. ing power but it cannot detect compounds that act by radical
An important review paper by Schaich, Tian, and Xie (2015) on quenching (H transfer), particularly thiols and proteins (Prior,
critical evaluation of ABTS, DPPH and ORAC assays was based Xu, & Schaich, 2005). FRAP values have a poor relationship with
on conceptual and technical issues that limit use and com- other antioxidant measures (Prior et al., 2005). The FRAP values
promise validity of these assays. They recommended of the spices and herbs as summarized in Table 6 denote that

Table 5 – Comparison of methods for assessing antioxidant capacityd.

Antioxidant assay Simplicity Instrumentation Biological Mechanism End point Quantitation Lipophilic and
required relevance hydrophilic AOC
ORAC ++a + +++ HAT Fixed time AUC +++
TRAP —b –specialized +++ HAT Lag phase IC50 lag time –
FRAP +++ +++ – SET Time, varies ΔOD fixed time —
CUPRAC +++ +++ SET Time ΔOD fixed time —
TEAC + + - SET Time ΔOD fixed time +++
DPPH + + - SET IC50 ΔOD fixed time -
TOSC - - ++ HAT IC50 AUC —
LDL oxidation - +++ +++ HAT Lag phase Lag time —
PHOTOCHEM + –specialized ++ ? Fixed time Lag time or AUCc +++
+ , ++, +++ = desirable to highly desired characteristic.
-, –, — = less desirable to highly undesirable based upon this characteristic.
The lipophilic assay is quantitated by AUC measured over a defined measuring time, and the hydrophilic assay is quantitated based upon
the lag phase.
Reprinted with permission from Prior et al. Standardized methods for the determination of antioxidant capacity and phenolics in foods and
dietary supplements. J Agric Food Chem, 53, 4290–4302. Copyright (2005) American Chemical Society.
journal of functional foods 18 (2015) 811–819 815

Table 6 – Antioxidant activities and total phenolic content of spices and herbs.
Spice/herb Scientific name Part of the plant Antioxidant DPPH (% Inhibition)b Total phenolic
content (FRAP)a contentc
(mmol/100 g) (mg/g)
Allspice Pimenta dioica Fruit 100.4 546.4f 421.5g
134 122.0
Basil Ocimum basilicum Leaf 19.9 18.0 44.89
Bay leaves Laurus nobilis Leaf 27.8 36.3
Black pepper Piper nigrum Fruit 4.7 19.5f 3.83
Cardamom Elettaria cardamomum Seed 7.5f 7.5g
Celery Apium Graveolens L. 86.7–105.84e 3.48–5.02
Coriander Coriandrum sativum Leaf 16.4f 18.5g
Cinnamon Cinnamomum cassia Presl Bark/cortex 77.0 364.0f 157.18
Clove Syzygium aromaticum Flower buds 277.3 1353.3f 113.19
271.0 296
Cumin Cuminum cyminum Seed 32.7b 49.5f
Dill Anethum graveolens Leaf 20.2
Fennel Foeniculum vulgare Seed 20.6f 46.1g
Ginger Zingiber officinale Root 20.3 31.8f 3.17
19.5 20.0g
Fenugreek Trigonella foenum-graecum Leaf 20.5f 52.0g
Mace Myristica fragrans, Aril of the seed 18.1f 20.0g
Mint leaves Mentha Leaf 116.4 50.9
Nutmeg Myristica fragans Seed 6.8 50.9f 49.0g
Oregano Oreganum vulgare Leaf 63.2 41.2 32.05–72.82
84.0 82.3
Parsley Petroselinum crispum Leaf 4.31 15.5
Peppermint Mentha piperita Leaf 0.43
Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis Leaf 44.8 90.1
47.9 48.2
Saffron Crocus sativus L. Stigma 17.5
Sage Salvia officinales Leaf 44.3 91.7
62.8 59.8
Sweet bell peppers Capsicum annuum L. Fruit 2.1 umol Trolox eq./g 2.4d
Green 3.3d
Yellow 3.4d
Orange 4.2d
Turmeric Curcuma longa Rhizome 10.2 9.6f 21.17
Thyme Thymus vulgares Leaf 56.3 52.0 23.24
Carlsen et al. (2010).
From various sources.
From various sources.
µmol Catechin equivalent/g.
µM TE/100 g dw.
µmol Trolox eq./g.
µmol Gallic acid eq./g.
816 journal of functional foods 18 (2015) 811–819


DPPH radical scavenging activities (%)










Fig. 1 – DPPH radical scavenging activities of hot water extracts of spices/herbs.

the top spices/herbs include clove, mint leaves, allspice, oregano, obtained from rosemary, oregano and sage due to their rela-
sage and thyme. tively high antioxidant activities (Table 6), ease of removal of
DPPH (2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl) is another measure- flavouring compounds and extraction of actives. Clove has the
ment based on the reducing ability of antioxidants towards this highest antioxidant activity as measured by the three assays
reagent. This assay measures the lost of DPPH colour (deep but because of its intense flavour and aroma, it cannot be used
purple) at 515 nm after reaction with the antioxidant. The per- in many food products as an antioxidant.
centage of DPPH remaining is calculated.
The percentage of remaining DPPH* is proportional to the 4.3. Applications in food products
antioxidant concentration and the concentration that causes
a decrease in the initial DPPH* concentration by 50% is defined Spices and herbs, whole or ground, have been used to pre-
as EC50 (Prior et al., 2005). The DPPH radical scavenging ability serve foods. Extracts and essential oils have likewise found uses
uses other units in addition to % inhibition. The higher the in inhibiting lipid oxidation and microbial growth in meat and
number, the higher the antioxidant activity of the spice/herb. fish. Table 7 summarizes selected studies which employed
Thus, based on Table 6 and the DPPH values, clove, sage and various forms of spices and herbs to inhibit or delay onset of
rosemary have the highest antioxidant activities. Differences lipid oxidation and development of rancidity in foods. Based
between DPPH values of the same spice/herb were due to sol- on these studies, not only are the spices and herbs effective
vents used in extraction (e.g., acetone vs. ethanol). The DPPH in reducing lipid oxidation but they are also instrumental in
assay is considered as an electron transfer reaction. Fig. 1 shows reducing formation of harmful substances such as heterocy-
the DPPH radical scavenging ability of the spice/herb ex- clic amines (HCAs) (Gibis, 2007; Rounds, Havens, Feinstein,
tracts, with clove having the highest and fennel the lowest value Friedman, & Ravishankar, 2012; Smith, Ameri, & Gargil, 2008;
based on the study conducted by Pandey, Mahalingan, Sharma, Viegas, Amaro, Ferreira, & Pinho, 2012; Zeng et al., 2014). Ap-
Lamsal, and Amritha (2014). The relative ranking of the spices plications of spice/herbs, essential oils or extracts ranged from
and herbs based from this study is in agreement with the values meat, fish, chicken and oils. Thus, it is beneficial to use spices
obtained in Table 6. and herbs or products derived from spices and herbs (e.g., ex-
In most scientific publications that determine the antioxi- tracts, essential oils) because of their proven efficacy in
dant activity of spices and herbs and even of other plant inhibiting or minimizing oxidative rancidity and with addi-
materials, determination of total phenolics is one of the assays tional benefits such as clean label, all natural and GMO-free,
of choice. Clove, allspice, cinnamon, oregano, fenugreek and all desirable qualities for consumers.
nutmeg have the highest total phenolics content (Table 6). Dif-
ferences in total phenolics from the same spice/herb are due
to different solvents used for extraction and possibly due to
the natural variation of antioxidant activities of spices/herbs 5. Conclusions
as influenced by variety, location where grown, fertilization and
weather, among others. Based on these results, it is not sur- There has been an increasing interest in using natural ingre-
prising that commercially available natural antioxidants are dients in foods and beverages. Consumers have increasingly
Table 7 – Application of spices and herbs to inhibit oxidation in foods.
Spice or herb Form Antioxidant Methods to monitor Results Reference
activity oxidation
Oregano Rosemary Extracts Total phenolic Reduction in Both the oregano and rosemary extracts inhibited the oxidation of Bhale et al., 2007
content docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) long-chain n-3 fatty acid. The antioxidant activity of rosemary extract
DPPH and eicosapentaenoic acid was greater than the oregano extract. The rosemary extract has 3 times
(EPA) content DPPH free radical scavenging capability.
Several spices from Marinades – Caribbean, Polyphenols as Heterocylic amines increase Steaks were treated with m for 1 hour prior to grilling. All 3 marinades Smith et al., 2008
Lamiaceae (mint) Southwest, Herb determined by significantly decreased the imidazo-azaarene heterocyclic amines
family HPLC (HCAs) compared to controls and liquid blanks. The Caribbean mixture
showed the highest decrease in total HCAs followed by Herb then by
Garlic Powder Thiobarbiturc acid reactive Garlic and onion in fresh pork belly and loin showed antioxidant Park et al., 2008

journal of functional foods 18 (2015) 811–819

Onion substance (TBARS), activity as effective as that of sodium ascorbate with reduction of
Free fatty acid (FFA), oxidative products and hexanal.
Peroxide value (POV),
Volatile compounds
Spices in garam masala Powder TBARS, sensory evaluation All individual spices of garam masala were effective in maintaining Vasavada et al., 2006
(black pepper, low TBA values in cooked beef during refrigeration in addition to
caraway, cardamom, significant reduction of perception of rancid odour and rancid flavour.
chili powder,
cinnamon, cloves,
coriander, cumin,
fennel, ginger,
nutmeg, star anise)
Chinese 5- spice Powder TBARS, sensory evaluation All spices and blends reduced rancid odour/flavour in cooked ground Dwivedi et al., 2006
ingredients – beef. The spices did not mask rancid off-flavours but have antioxidant
cinnamon, cloves, effects as shown by their low TBA values compared to the control.
fennel, pepper, star
Annatto Seeds Conjugated dienes, TBARS, Annatto and coriander were efficient in the control of lipid oxidation Sancho et al., 2011
Coriander Leaves FFA, cholesterol oxides as TBARS and conjugated dienes were monitored in white hake fish
meatballs during frozen storage. When added together, these spices
had higher antioxidant activity probably due to synergistic effect.
Cooking diminished the antioxidant activity of the spices.
Licorice Extract DPPH TBARS, sensory evaluation Licorice extract was an effective antioxidant in precooked pork patties Jiang et al., 2013
Rosemary extract ABTS capable of inhibiting lipid oxidation during refrigerated and frozen
Phenolic storage independent of salt content. The antioxidant activity has been
compounds attributed to its superior radical scavenging capacity, particularly
against hydroxyl radical (•OH). Licorice extract was more effective than
rosemary extract and was almost comparable to BHA in efficacy when
used at appropriate levels.
Oregano Essential oil Essential oil Sensory evaluation Oregano essential oil preserved the sensory quality of extra virgin olive Asensio et al., 2012
analysis oil prolonging its shelf life by decreasing the lipid oxidation process.
Rosemary Powder Heterocyclic amines (HCAs), Rosmarinic acid and rosemary powder can effectively decrease the Tsen et al., 2006
Rosmarinic acid mutagenicity of HCAs formation and mutagenicity of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) in beef
patties fried at 400 °C

(continued on next page)
818 journal of functional foods 18 (2015) 811–819

favoured food products which contain natural ingredients due

Fratianni et al., 2010

Mariutti et al., 2011

Pezeshk et al., 2011

to concerns over adverse health effects of synthetic raw mate-
Rižnar et al., 2006

Rubió et al., 2012

rials particularly some synthetic antioxidants. Lipid oxidation
has various detrimental effects on foods such as colour fading,

browning or colour degradation and development of rancid

flavour and off notes which renders the food unpalatable and
unacceptable. In addition, lipid oxidation diminishes the nu-
tritional value of foods and poses health risks due to peroxides
that can cause oxidation damage in living tissues. Products from

shallot extracts (1.5% + 1.5%) can retard the microbial growth, delay the

with 60% olive and 40% thyme produced a significantly more stable to
lipid oxidation such as lipid peroxides and aldehydes such as

chemical changes, maintain sensory attributes, and extend the shelf

cholesterol during thermal processing and storage at −18 °C for 90 d.

A phenol-enriched olive oil prepared with phenolic extract obtained

shallot extract (1.5%) and combined treatment of both turmeric and
effective method to minimize and delay the oxidation of lipids and

deterioration of chicken meat and extend the shelf life of the fresh
antioxidant and antimicrobial properties when added to vacuum-

malondialdehyde (MDA) can also induce mutagenesis and car-

Dipping of whole gutted rainbow trout in turmeric extract (1.5%),
Rosemary extracts (VivOX 20, VivOX 4, and Robin LI LS) showed

Essentials oils from thyme and balm can effectively reduce the
The addition of 0.1 g of sage/100 g to chicken breast meat is an

cinogenesis. In this connection, spices and herbs have been used

for thousands of years for flavour, aroma, as colouring in foods
and as preservatives. They contain powerful antioxidants that
have been proven to be effective in inhibiting lipid oxidation or
Garlic on the other hand did not inhibit oxidation.

slowing down the onset of rancidity in foods. Antioxidants from

life of rainbow trout during refrigerated storage.

spices and herbs possess desirable properties such as being

natural, non-GMO and having clean label ingredients (i.e., can
be listed as spice or herb or flavouring). Antioxidant activities
and antioxidant capacities of compounds from spices and herbs
have been determined and well published in the scientific lit-
erature. Interests in food antioxidants from spices and herbs will
packed chicken frankfurters.

product when stored at 4 °C.

continue to increase as well as research and technology that will

oxidation than control.

develop better ways of growing spices and herbs that contain

higher amounts of antioxidants. Finding better ways of isolat-
ing active compounds and employment of chemometrics in
designing a more effective combination of natural food anti-
oxidants as well as the use of mixture designs to optimize the

effectiveness of blended spices/herbs or blended antioxidant

compounds will continue to increase in the future due to the
increasing demand of consumers.
oxidation (volatile aldehydes,

Lipid peroxide determination

secondary products of lipid

degradation of vitamin E
Cholesterol oxides, FFA,
Methods to monitor

Rancimat test, sensory

POV, TBARS, sensory
pentanal, hexanal),
Rancimat test

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Total phenolic
content ORAC

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GC of EO

long-chain n-3 fatty acids in Menhaden oil. Journal of Food



Science, 72, C504–C508.

Carlsen, M. H., Halvorsen, B. L., Holte, K., Bøhn, S. K., Dragland, S.,
Sampson, L., Willey, C., Senoo, H., Umezono, Y., Sanada, C.,
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Essential oil (EO)
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Table 7 – (continued)

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Spice or herb

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and Food Chemistry, 42, 665–669.




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