Colour Tests for Precursor Chemicals of Amphetamine-Type Substances: Systematic Study of Color Tests for Safrole and Safrole-rich Essential Oils


In recent years, there has been concern about the use of safrole-rich oils in illicit MDMA
("ecstasy") manufacture. A systematic study was carried out on different colour tests for safrole
and safrole-rich essential oils to assess their potential to:

(i) identify safrole, whether pure or in the presence of other - potentially interfering - essential oil
components, and

(ii) distinguish, on a semi-quantitative basis, essential oils of high safrole content from those of
low content.

A combination of the Marquis test, the gallic acid test, concentrated sulfuric acid and the
phloroglucinol reagent was found to be suitable for the differentiation between safrole-rich
essential oils and samples containing little or no safrole. The study also showed that the common
terpene compounds in essential oils, including camphor, do not interfere with any of the colour

UN document ID number: SCITEC/21
Publication date: December 2007
Languages: English ( PDF)