Written by Alejandro Andión
Aromatic plants have been used therapeutically in all regions of the world since ancient ages. In fact, until the middle of the 20th century they were the only source of remedies for different conditions or diseases. Based on complex composition products obtained from natural sources. Subsequently, the appearance of synthetic chemistry and biological/pharmacological research methods occurs. The search began for compounds with potent pharmacological activity with clearly defined mechanisms of action at the molecular level.
However, starting in the 1980s, a new boom in medicines based on natural products was observed. Either for its direct use or for being a source of obtaining active ingredients. This with marked pharmacological activity.
This scenario led to the development of legislation applicable to herbal medicines. This with the general objective of safeguarding public health through the guarantee of its quality, safety and efficacy. In addition, at European level, promote and facilitate the internal market. (1)
Currently, in Europe we find ourselves with a mosaic of regulations that would be very extensive to analyse, for this reason I will only make a brief reference to the countries that, due to their volume of consumption (approximately 60% of the European market) and phytotherapeutic tradition, seem more representative: Germany, France and Italy. (2)
In Germany, legally, drugs made from plants are considered entirely as medicines. This legal position was confirmed in 1992 by the European Court of Justice. For 18 years, 410 monographs of 324 plants have been compiled by Commission E (expert committee on medicinal plants established by the German Government Health Agency to assess the safety of phytomedicines).
It is important to note that around 40% of the total market are prescription phytopharmaceuticals.
As for plants for traditional use, French regulations provide for a short list of 34 plants for free sale.
A list of 196 plants with an agile registration form in which a mixture of up to 4 different species is allowed and dispensed exclusively in pharmacies, just like the rest of medicines of plant origin with full pharmaceutical registration.
In Italy, drugs made exclusively from plant preparations can be registered by the ordinary procedure (European Directive 65/65/CEE). These medicines, currently about 150 (among which we find hypericum, bilberry, saw palmetto, valerian, anthraquinone laxatives), are dispensed exclusively in pharmacies as prescription specialties or as EFP .
As can be seen, European regulations are quite permissive regarding the use of medicinal plants, allowing a large number of these for consumption as medicine. At least in the most consuming countries in Europe.
POPULAR AROMATIC PLANTS USED IN ITALY
These are some of the most popular plants in Italy for human consumption: (3)
1.- Achilea moschata: It is a plant that has the property of stimulating the secretion of gastric juices and, therefore, promoting digestion. The parts used are flowers and leaves that can be used directly or through essential oil extraction. (4)
2.- Althea officinalis: can be used in small quantities for the preparation of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. It can also be used in desserts, candied fruits, baked goods, jellies. For phytotherapeutic use (treatment of inflammation of the oral cavity and pharyngeal cavity, digestive tract, urinary tract, in case of peptic ulcer, wounds, burns, boils, abscesses, eye inflammation,), the parts of the plant that are used are the root and the leaves. This plant is also used in the cosmetic field for preparations to moisturize the skin and combat couperose. (5)
3.- Arnica montana: It has a remarkable ability to provide pain relief with its anti-inflammatory effect and promote healing of various injuries, it is used in the form of an ointment, cream or gel for external application. (6)
4.- Foeniculum vulgare: Regarding its culinary use, it is very versatile since the chopped stems and leaves are used as an aromatic herb, the seeds as a spice and the bulb as a vegetable, providing in each case a characteristic aniseed and intense flavour and aroma. In addition, an essential oil used in herbal medicine is obtained from the seeds. In herbalism it is considered a plant with diuretic and carminative properties. It can also be used externally to relieve irritation from tired eyes and conjunctivitis. (7)
5.- Arctium lappa: It can be used in a culinary way, especially its root that contains a large amount of dietary fiber. It is used in Western folk medicine as a diuretic, diaphoretic, and blood-purifying agent and also has cosmetic use in oil form, for shampoos, and hair care products. (7)
6.- Matricaria chamomilla: The tender stem and flowering tops are used dry or fresh in an aromatic and slightly bitter infusion. It is considered digestive, carminative, sedative, tonic, vasodilator and antispasmodic. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy, and the infusion of the flowers is applied to the hair to increase its golden colour, especially in children. (7)
7.- Passiflora: It is widely used to treat cases of nervousness, insomnia or anxiety relief. Its active ingredients are found in the aerial parts: flowers, stems and leaves of the plant. It can be taken in infusion or capsule form. (7)
8.- Menta piperita: Peppermint is consumed as an infused beverage. It is used as an aromatic herb. It is the most used aroma for candies, chewing gum, ice cream and other confectionery preparations flavored with mint. It is also used to dress salads, soups, game meats and lamb. In traditional medicine it is used as an infusion for digestive or liver disorders, by helping digestion, as an antiemetic and stimulant, and as an antispasmodic for muscle pain or systemic cramps. The oil has a variety of uses applied topically to the nostrils to relieve sinusitis, to the temples for headaches, to the chest or inhaled for coughs or bad colds, topically to relieve pain from cavities, in compresses for insect bites or other skin irritations. (7)
9.- Lavandula: These plants have been used since ancient times as ornamentals and to obtain essences, flavourings and condiments. The amount of essential oil obtained varies according to the species, season and method of distillation. This essence is mainly used in the toiletries and perfumery industries and occasionally in ointments, etc., to mask unpleasant odours and to help you fall asleep. They are also used to repel mosquitoes. (7)
10.- Origanum vulgare: Its phytotherapeutic properties have been extensively studied, the most important being its antioxidant, antimicrobial and, in quite primary studies, antitumor, antiseptic activity, and it is also considered tonic and digestive. In addition, oregano is an aromatic herb that is highly appreciated gastronomically, as it provides an intense personality to the elaborations in which it participates as a condiment. Among the most significant dishes in which oregano is added as a flavouring are mojos, marinades and sauces such as the Bolognese. Its presence in Mediterranean cuisine stands out, and especially in Italian cuisine, where it is a very characteristic flavour. It is a common ingredient in recipes such as lasagne, Torta di Ricotta, Creole soup, pizza, baked tomatoes, Neapolitan chicken breasts, cauliflower soup, stewed potatoes, garlic bread, Zahareño tuna, pirozhki (Russian stuffed) or fricando. (7)
MAIN ITALIAN AROMATIC PLANTS’ COMPANIES.
This company directly produces most of the raw materials used, more than 60 species.
It uses modern and industrial farming techniques but at the same time sustainable.
They cultivate in accordance with the European Regulation that excludes the use of fertilizers, chemically synthesized phytopharmaceuticals and GMOs and promotes environmental practices for the selection of species resistant to diseases and specific cultivation techniques (crop rotation, green manure, etc.).
ts productions are carried out in compliance with the Good Agricultural and Collection Practices, specific guidelines to produce medicinal plants.
Bioplanta is a company dedicated to the production of aromatic plants, the cultivation of these plants is totally ecological, respecting the times and natural life cycles, minimizing the anthropic impact. They rotate crops allowing the land to regenerate and improve itself.
They do not use chemical fertilizers or pesticides, allowing nature to create the ideal microclimate for biodiversity that helps plants grow healthy.
The fertilizer is mostly green and ecological fertilizer.
Company dedicated to the cultivation and processing of aromatic plants, they also cultivate part of their total production, the cultivation of medicinal plants in the company follows organic certification and respect for the balsamic time of the plant at harvest.
RECENT STUDIES ABOU AROMATIC AND MEDICINAL PLANTS
Here are some studies about aromatic plants:
FIRST STUDY: (11)
The present review explored the protection against cellular damage resulting from radiation of approximately thirty aromatic plant extracts or plant-derived compounds.
Many aromatic plant extracts or plant products have shown significant radioprotection in different model systems such as in vivo, ex vivo and/or in vitro.
It is a well-known fact that radiation is a powerful cytotoxic agent. Reactive oxygen species such as superoxide anion, singlet oxygen, hydroxyl radical, nitric oxide, hydrogen peroxide and peroxyl radicals generated by ionizing radiation in biologic system causes cellular injury due to lesions in DNA and proteins.
The radical scavenging and antioxidant properties such as reduction in radiation-induced lipid peroxidation are some of the notable characteristics of aromatic plant extracts studied in various models of radiation damage.
In most of the studies, it has been shown that while protecting against the detrimental effects of radiation, there is a capacity to significantly increase the survival rates of small animals exposed to radiation. Results of such studies point out possible applications during radiotherapy and could find application in treatment for victims of nuclear plant accidents or leakage, or radiation terrorism.
SECOND STUDY: (12)
This study analysed the antioxidant properties of a series of aromatic plants such as Phlomis lanata, Nepeta melissifolia, Origanum vulgare, etc…
The results in this study indicate that the examined aromatic plants contain certain amounts of polyphenols and their antioxidant capacity was shown. The extracts showed adequate DPPH (1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl) scavenging activity. Their efficiency toward oxidation of bulk oil under accelerated conditions also produced satisfactory results using the Rancimat apparatus.
THIRD STUDY: (13)
This study highlighted the importance of the role of traditional herbal medicine in urban areas of Casablanca; it is showed the importance of traditional medicine in the oral health system for the investigated populations. Data collected may help to preserve knowledge about different plants used and their mode of preparation. The results of this study have been obtained from the traditional herbalists in one of the most peopled region in North Africa, revealing the importance of the practice of plant medicine to treat oral diseases mainly as gum disease.
1. Tech ESPAÑA, school of farmacy. (March 21, 2021). Mercado de plantas medicinales. https://www.techtitute.com/farmacia/blog/mercado-plantas-medicinales
2. Javier Herradón, Presidente del COF de Segovia. (July, 2002). Regulación del mercado de plantas medicinales en España. Consecuencia en la distribución y venta. https://www.elsevier.es/es-revista-offarm-4-articulo-regulacion-del-mercado-plantas-medicinales-13034833
3. Anamaría Belli, Franco Turchi. (). SITUACIÓN Y LÍNEAS DE INVESTIGACIÓN EN PLANTAS AROMÁTICAS Y MEDICINALES EN ITALIA. http://www.herbotecnia.com.ar/c-biblio010-19.htm
4. Antropocene. (January 16, 2020). Achillea herba-rotta subsp. moschata. https://antropocene.it/es/2020/01/16/achillea-erba-rotta-subsp-moschata/
5. Antropocene. (January 28, 2019). Althaea officinalis. https://antropocene.it/es/?s=Althea+officinalis
6. Antropocene. (June 25, 2017). Arnica montana. hhttps://antropocene.it/es/?s=Arnica+montana
7. Wikipedia, La enciclopedia libre.
8. Aboca.com. https://www.aboca.com/es/empresa/naturales-garantizados/producimos/
9. Bioplanta.it. https://www.bioplanta.it/azienda/
10. Biokyma.com. https://www.biokyma.com/sezioni/1-produzione-piante-officinali-da-tutto-il-mondo.html
11. Ravindra M Samarth, Meenakshi Samarth, and Yoshihisa Matsumoto. (September 21, 2017). Medicinally important aromatic plants with radioprotective activity. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5674267/
12. Charalampos Proestos and Theo Varzakas. (April 4, 2017). Aromatic Plants: Antioxidant Capacity and Polyphenol Characterisation. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5409316/
13. Sophia Zougagh, Ayoub Belghiti, Tarik Rochd, Ilham Zerdani, and Jamal Mouslim. (November 27, 2018). Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Used in Traditional Treatment of the Oral Pathology: The Ethnobotanical Survey in the Economic Capital Casablanca, Morocco (North Africa). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6328421/