A brief introduction to Spice Oils and Oleoresins

by Dr. A G Mathew, Technical Director, Plant Lipids


Spices have two major attributes, Aroma and Taste.

Aroma is felt by the olfactory organ in the nose.

The chemical constituents that have aroma are volatile and will diffuse through the air and reach the nose.

The volatile oil or essential oil (so called since it is used for making essences) of spice, represents the aroma of the spice.

Volatile oil of spice (also called the spice oil) can be obtained by steam distillation, followed by cooling of the vapors and separation from water.

Spices also have taste factors.

The most important taste principles are hot.

Examples of hot chemical constituents are piperine in pepper, capsaicin in chilli and gingerol in ginger.

In some cases color is also important as in the case of chilli and paprika (capasanthin) and turmeric (curcumin).

When all the organoleptic characteristics like aroma, taste, and color are required, oleoresins are used.

Oleoresins are made by solvent extraction of dried ground spices, followed by removal of the solvent to an acceptable low level in accordance with food safety standards.

Today spice oils and oleoresins are used in a large number of processed foods.

The major advantages of spice extractives are: They are less bulky, free from microbial and insect attack, and most important they all are precisely standardized.

Spice oils and oleoresins are rarely used in household cooking, though substantial amounts are used in medicinal preparations.


( Dr. Mathew’s brief biography is available in the “About Us” section, click here. )