Medicinal and aromatic plants

Medicinal and aromatic plants

One of the key research areas are the medicinal and aromatic plants. Several species and research questions surround this topic, for example optimising cultivation and quality of herbs, flowers, rhizomes or grains of different plants. Excerpts of our work can be found on this page.

The resarch project REGIO-Mohn (2018-2021) produced a picture collection called MohnLandschaften. This initiative was supported by INRES Renewable Resources, Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU),  OCS Vollkorn-Mühlenbäckerei GmbH and Ölmühle Solling.

© Moierhof, Familie Müller
Eine Wissenschaftlerin und ein Wissenschaftler arbeiten hinter einer Glasfassade und mischen Chemikalien mit Großgeräten.
© © Katharina Luhmer


Fundamental knowledge on cultivation practises and problems is the basis for successful growing of medicinal and aromatic plants.

Many of the medicinal or spice plants are grown on a small scale with only limited or old knowledge. Therefore, basic research in the area of cultivation has to be done to answer questions on optimal seeding dates, plant densities, nutrient supply, weed and pest management as well as yield.

Picking the best variety and location also plays an important role and is tested at Campus Klein-Altendorf in relation to different management factors.

Weed regulation

Management of weeds is essential in the cultivation of medicinal and aromatic plants as a weed-free harvest ist decisive for marketing as food or medicinal product.

In most cases mechanical weeding is applied to prevent chemical residues on the plants. Moreover, not many substances are allowed for plant protection of these species. Mechanical hoeing and harrowing are common strategies for weed regulation.

This raises questions on the optimum time of application and machine adjustements. The research project Optimech is an example of a project focussing on weed management in peppermint, parsley and lemon balm.

© Hanna Blum
Eine Wissenschaftlerin und ein Wissenschaftler arbeiten hinter einer Glasfassade und mischen Chemikalien mit Großgeräten.
© Julian Elfers

Product quality

Apart from high biomass yields, product quality is essential for successful marketing of medicinal and aromatic plants. The Deutsche Arzneibuch (DAB) holds specifications for minimum content of active substances and further requirements come from different buyers and processors.

These are reasons why we out a focus on researching parameters that determine quality traits and how they can be influenced by cultivation and post-harvest processes.

The research project REGIO-Mohn, in cooperation with the Institut für Ernährungs- und Lebensmittelwissenschaften (IEL), provided insights on fatty acid profile, vitamins, proteins and aroma components of poppy seed and oil. In the project Linovit quality characteristics of flaxseed are being researched. 


Nectar and pollen of many spice plants are food for several insect species. On the other hand, plants benefit from pollination.The diversity of medicinal and aromatic plants contributes to a diversity of flowering periods, as for example the flowering of fennel reaches into autumn. For example poppy (see picture on the right) offers a large amount of pollen that is attractive for honey bees, hover flies and wild bees.

There are different research projects analysing the biodiversity benefits of medicinal and aromatic plants like the FNR project AuGÖkosystem: Entwicklung eines Bestäubungsmanagements im Arzneipflanzenanbau zur Steigerung der Erträge und gleichzeitigen Erhöhung der Ökosystemleistungen (results and final report).

Mohnpflanze mit Honigbiene
© Katharina Luhmer

Diverse Species

Depending on current topics and research projects, different plants are in focus of our research. Examples for experimental plants are fennel, caraway, poppy, flaxseed, mint, echinaceae, thyme, basil, lemon balm and much more.

Current Research Projects


Ob als Leinsaat, Leinschrot oder als Leinöl erfahren Leinprodukte einen steigenden Absatz und der Bedarf nach Rohware nimmt deutlich zu. Neue Technologien und das gesteigerte Interesse der Verbraucher an proteinreichen Lebensmitteln ermöglichen der Industrie, aus Nebenströmen der Rohstoffverarbeitung neue Produkte und funktionelle Lebensmittel zu kreieren. Neben den wertgebenden Inhaltsstoffen der Leinsamen und deren Verarbeitungsprodukten, können Leinsamen für den Menschen deutlich wertmindernde Inhaltsstoffe enthalten, welche im Sinne der Lebensmittelsicherheit minimiert werden müssen. Durch die Entölung der Saat erfahren nicht nur die wertgebenden Inhaltsstoffe des Leins im Presskuchen eine Anreicherung, sondern auch die problematischen. In dem geplanten Vorhaben sollen in der ersten Projektphase die qualitätswirksamen Faktoren entlang der gesamten Wertschöpfungskette dokumentiert und analysiert werden. Auf diese Weise können die Stellschrauben zur Anreicherung wertgebenden und Vermeidung wertmindernden Stoffe identifiziert werden. In der zweiten Phase wird die Blausäure, die als kritische Substanz immer weiter in den Fokus der Öffentlichkeit rückt, durch die Entwicklung von technologischen Prozessen auf der Verarbeitungsebene minimiert. Es werden technologische Verfahren zum Umgang mit der Risikosubstanz entwickelt, welche neben der Minimierung des Blausäuregehaltes gleichzeitig die Erhaltung der wertgebenden Faktoren sicherstellen. In der dritten Projektphase wird die Nutzung von Reststoffen aus dem Leinölverarbeitungsprozess hin zu neuen, funktionellen, proteinreichen Lebensmitteln untersucht.

© Hanna Blum


Recent studies confirmed that plant parasitic nematodes can be a serious threat to medicinal and aromatic plants. Neither growers nor consultants usually know about this problem. Thus, there there is an acute need for action. In order to ensure high yields and optimum quality, losses due to plant parasitic nematodes need to be identified in time and the causual organisms reduced or eliminated as part of a sustainable nematode management system. This results to the following objectives of this applied research project: 1) investigations on the occurrence of plant parasitic nematodes on medicinal and aromatic plants, 2) identification of the primary harmful nematode species, 3) determination of the damage potential of plant parasitic nematodes on selected medicinal and aromatic plants, 4) effects of nematode infestation on relevant compounds of selected medicinal and aromatic plants, 5) development of sustainable nematode management and 6) transfer of the acquired knowledge into practice. Overall, these measures should result in a significant increase of the productivity and competiveness of farms producing medicinal and aromatic plants. To achieve these goals a powerful and competent team has been formed that covers the entire value chain in medicinal and aromoatc plant cultivation: research (JKI Münster, University of Bonn), consultancy (University of Bonn, Ökoplant e.V.) and producers (agrimed Hessen, MAWEA / Calbe) and processors. To ensures that results are available in time, only established methods will be used to address the research questions. This will allow transferring the generated resutls into practice within the project period.

© Hanna Blum


The use of hyperspectral data for quality assessment is an emerging field and holds great potential for the application at the interface of agronomy and food research. In this proposed research, quality parameters of the medicinal plant Mentha sp. will be evaluated from both the hyperspectral and biochemical approach with the aim of building valid models for quantification of important plant compounds non-invasively. The data generation is supported by field and greenhouse trials that will cover a range of environmental and management factors to provide a solid knowledge base for interpreting sensor data. The goal is a better understanding of the relations between genotypes, environment, management and biochemicals as well as hyperspectral sensor data. To achieve this goal, close collaboration between the INRES - Renewable Resources institute and the IEL groups of Food Chemistry and Molecular Food Technology are established. The translation of hyperspectral data to agronomic and biochemical traits can build a starting point for non-invasive quality assessment of medicinal and aromatic plants in producing and processing industries.

© Julian Elfers


Avatar Luhmer

Dr. Katharina Luhmer

Scientific Assistant
Avatar Blum

Hanna Blum

Project staff
Avatar Hubert-Schöler

Charlotte Hubert-Schöler

PhD student
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