(Chemotaxonomic) implications of postharvest/storage-induced changes in plant volatile profiles - the case of Artemisia absinthium L. essential oil
The plant volatile profile and the essential-oil chemical composition change during the storage of plant material. The objective of this study was to develop a mathematical model able to predict, explain, and quantify these changes. Mathematical equations, derived under the assumption that the essential oil contained within plant material could be treated as an ideal solution (Raoult's law), were applied for tracking of postharvest changes in the volatile profile of Artemisia absinthium L. (the essential oils were analyzed by GC-FID and GC/MS). Starting from a specific chemical composition of an essential-oil sample obtained from plant material after a short drying period (typically 5-10 d), and by using the equations derived from this model, one could easily predict evaporation-induced changes in the volatile profile of the plant material. Based on the composition of the essential-oil sample obtained after a given storage time t, it is possible to identify those components that were involved in chemical reactions, both as reactants and possible products. The established model even allowed the recognition of pairs of transformation, i.e., 'daughter' products and their 'parent' compounds. The obtained results highlight that the essential-oil composition is highly dependent on the storage period of any plant material and urges caution in different types of phytochemical studies, especially chemotaxonomic ones, or practical application.