Written by Alexandra Papanicolaou
Numerous products, including cosmetics, medications, and essential oils all contain or are based on plant extracts. Horticulture or natural gathering of plants canprovide the raw material for cosmetic and medical products. About 90% of species are gathered from wild flora, according to research by the Erasmus+ project Good Herbs, while just 10% are grown for commercial purposes. The markets for natural and organic cosmetics are expanding quickly in Europe since plants and their derivatives have been utilized for medicinal and aromatic purposes for thousands of years. Roughly one in four of all prescription medications administered by western pharmacists are likely to contain plant-based components. Hence, due to their usage as raw materials in the development of pharmaceutical and cosmetic products, medicinal and aromatic plants are gaining more and more attention on a global scale. Additionally, customers are growing more concerned with their health and paying attention to naturally occurring components with known sources. This has led to an increase in demand for plant-based extracts from the agrochemical, cosmetic, food and beverage, and pharmaceutical industries. Italy is the third most important EU importer of crude medicinal and aromatic plants, with Fennel, Rosemary, Oregano, Chamomile and Sage, Garlic, Thyme and Bay laurel being some of the most often produced and used aromatic plants in Italy. It’s interesting to note that there are over 100 species of medicinal and aromatic plants in Italy.
- Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Mill.) is a hardy, perennial herb native to Mediterranean coasts and widely naturalized around the world. Fenchone and trans-anethole, two of the volatile oil’s primary constituents, are found in abundance in fennel seed. The essential oil also contains limonene, estragole, camphene, and alpha-pinene. Trans-anethole, estragole, fenchone, and alpha-phellandrene are the principal components of the essential oils derived from its leaves; limonene, neophytadiene, and phytol are minor components. Fennel is thought to have expectorant and digestive characteristics, and its usage in the treatment of dyspeptic diseases has received official approval .
- Oregano (Origanum vulgare L. subsp. vulgare) is a perennial herb native to the temperate regions of Europe and Asia. The primary components of the essential oil found in its leaves include p-cymene, c-terpinene, carvacrol, limonene, linalool, terpinene, ocimene, caryophyllene, beta-bisabolene, and 4-terpineol. Mainly foods benefit from the use of oregano due to its mildly bitter flavor.
- Sage (Salvia officinalis L.) is an evergreen subshrub native to the Mediterranean basin. The main ingredients in sage oil are camphor, 1,8-cineole, alpha-thujone, betathujone, borneol, viridiflorol, caryophyllene, and cineole. According to studies, because of its components, it can protect against neurodegenerative diseases.
- Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) is an evergreen sclerophyllous shrub that is indigenous to the Mediterranean region. The essential oil’s primary constituents are 1,8-cineole, alpha-pinene, camphor, camphene, and beta-pinene. A common substance in the Lamiaceae family, rosmarinic acid is an ester of caffeic acid and 3,4-dihydroxyphenyllactic acid. The rosemary is known to have a variety of intriguing biological properties, including antioxidant, antiviral, and antibacterial properties .
- German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) are two distinct plant species that have comparable benefits. Sesquiterpenes (such as bisabolol, farnesene), sesquiterpenelactones (such as chamazulene, matricin), flavonoids (such as apigenin, luteolin), and volatile oils are common components in both species. Regarding its use, chamomile is applied topically to promote wound healing and is taken orally as a sedative and for digestive issues. According to studies, mastitis and cracked, bleeding nipples have both been treated using homeopathic and herbal remedies. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has deemed chamomile “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) for use in food as a spice, seasoning, or flavoring agent .
Indena, with headquarters in Milan, dominates Italy’s robust extraction industry. Indena has consolidated its position as a global leader in the botanical extracts industry, and the company’s founders paved the way for a completely new method of approaching the trade in medicinal plants . In addition to Indena, in Italy, there are a number of other significant local companies operating in this field including Aboca, Ulrich, Minardi, Carlo Sessa, and Dr Taffi as well as well-known international companies like Arkopharma, Salus Haus and Solgar Vitamins.
Although the biological properties of aromatic plants have been studied, a deeper understanding of the biological activities and underlying processes of these plants will be possible with the help of additional well-designed research that normalize dose and incubation time in cell and animal models .
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