The artemisinic aldehyde double bond reductase (DBR2) plays an important role in the biosynthesis of the antimalarial artemisinin in Artemisia annua. Artemisinic aldehyde is reduced into dihydroartemisinic aldehyde by DBR2. Artemisinic aldehyde can also be oxidized by amorpha-4,11-diene 12-hydroxylase and/or aldehyde dehydrogenase 1 to artemisinic acid, a precursor of arteannuin B. In order to better understand the effects of DBR2 expression on the flow of artemisinic aldehyde into either artemisinin or arteannuin B, we determined the content of dihydroartemisinic aldehyde, artemisinin, artemisinic acid and arteannuin B content of A. annua varieties sorted into two chemotypes. The high artemisinin producers (HAPs), which includes the '2/39', 'Chongqing' and 'Anamed' varieties, produce more artemisinin than arteannuin B; the low artemisinin producers (LAPs), which include the 'Meise', 'Iran#8', 'Iran#14', 'Iran#24' and 'Iran#47' varieties, produce more arteannuin B than artemisinin. Quantitative PCR showed that the relative expression of DBR2 was significantly higher in the HAP varieties. We cloned and sequenced the promoter of the DBR2 gene from varieties of both the LAP and the HAP groups. There were deletions/insertions in the region just upstream of the ATG start codon in the LAP varities, which might be the reason for the different promoter activities of the HAP and LAP varieties. The relevance of promoter variation, DBR2 expression levels and artemisinin biosynthesis capabilities are discussed and a selection method for HAP varieties with a DNA marker is suggested. Furthermore, putative cis-acting regulatory elements differ between the HAP and LAP varieties.