Introduction: Arbutus unedo L. (strawberry tree), Ceratonia siliqua L. (carob), Eucalyptus camaldulensis Dehnh. (eucalyptus), Laurus nobilis L. (laurel), Mentha aquatica L. (water mint), Myrtus communis L. (common myrtle), and Rosmarinus officinalis L. (rosemary) are aromatic plants from the Mediterranean region whose parts and preparations are used for their nutritional properties and health benefits.
Objectives: To evaluate and compare the metabolites profile, total phenol content (TPC), and antioxidant activity of plant leaves for their future use. Gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS) was used for metabolomics. Data comparison was performed by chemometrics.
Methodology: Polar and apolar extracts were analysed using untargeted GC–MS metabolomics followed by chemometrics (principal component analysis, heatmap correlation and dendrogram) to identify, quantify and compare the major organic compounds in the plants. Additionally, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy was used for the laurel polar extract to identify d-gluco-l-glycero-3-octulose whose presence was unclear from the GC–MS data. TPC and antioxidant assays were performed using classical methods (Folin–Ciocalteu, 2,2′-azinobis-(3-ethylbenzothiazoline-6-sulphonic acid) diammonium salt (ABTS), 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH)) and correlated to the phytochemical profiles.
Results: Forty-three metabolites were identified including amino acids, organic acids, carbohydrates, phenols, polyols, fatty acids, and alkanes. Eight metabolites (d-fructose, d-glucose, d-mannose, gallic acid, quinic acid, myo-inositol, palmitic and stearic acids) were in common between all species. d-Gluco-l-glycero-3-octulose (37.29 ± 1.19%), d-pinitol (31.33 ± 5.12%), and arbutin (1.30 ± 0.44%,) were characteristic compounds of laurel, carob, and strawberry tree, respectively. Carob showed the highest values of TPC and antioxidant activity.
Conclusion: GC–MS metabolomics and chemometrics analyses are fast and useful methods to determine and compare the metabolomics profiling of aromatic plants of food and industrial interest.