Chromatographic analysis of lignans

S. M. Willför*, A. I. Smeds, B. R. Holmbom

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview Article or Literature Reviewpeer-review

169 Citations (Scopus)


Methods and procedures for analysis of lignans in trees and other plants are reviewed. The importance of cautious sample handling and pretreatment procedures to avoid contamination, loss of sample, and unwanted chemical reactions is discussed. Sequential extraction with a non-polar solvent followed by extraction with acetone or ethanol is recommended to separate the lignans from the plant matrix. An additional step of acid, alkaline, or enzymatic hydrolysis may be necessary for some plant matrixes. Flash chromatography is a convenient method for preparative separation and isolation of pure lignans from raw extracts. TLC is very suitable for qualitative screening of extracts and for monitoring of lignan isolation and purification steps. Trimethylsilyl ethers of lignans can be separated and quantified by GC even in the case of complex mixtures of lignans and other polyphenols, and the lignans can be identified by GC-MS in a routine manner. HPLC on reversed-phase columns is especially suited for analysis of lignans and their metabolites in biological matrixes. The recent development of HPLC-electrospray ionisation (ESI)-iontrap MS (MSn) and corresponding techniques with high sensitivity and selectivity has proven valuable in lignan analysis. Lignan enantiomers can be separated on chiral HPLC columns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-77
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Chromatography A
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 21 Apr 2006
MoE publication typeA2 Review article in a scientific journal


  • Extraction
  • GC
  • HPLC
  • Lignans
  • Purification
  • TLC


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