Botanical supplements and herbal ingredients have been used in traditional and folk remedies for centuries, but how does this long-standing history of use fit in with the lives of modern consumers?
While the assessment of their health benefits may be on hold because of a variety of issues in assessing botanical health claims, consumer demand for these ingredients seems to be growing at a rapid rate.
According to data from the EU-backed PlantLIBRA study, consumers in many European countries use a huge variety of plant food supplements (PFS) that contain botanical ingredients.
Indeed, a recent survey of six countries (Finland, Italy, Spain, UK, Germany & Romania) found that approximately one in five (20%) of consumers in these countries regularly take some form of botanical in the form of a plant food supplement.
Speaking at the Botanicals in Food conference in Denmark recently, PlantLIBRA coordinator Professor Patrizia Restani noted that with so many different products on the European market, the total amount different PFS taken by consumers in the survey exceeded one thousand - all of which were produced by more than 400 different companies.
“During the collection of data, we collected 1,288 different products,” she commented. “These products contained 491 different botanicals.”
“We also tried to understand whether the consumer liked to use a mono-botanical, or a product containing different plants,” said the project leader – revealing that 57% of the products consumed contained a single botanical ingredient, while 16% contained two ingredients.
Reasons for use
According to the data, the top reasons that consumers chose to use botanical ingredients and plant supplements is for immune benefits and to help provide energy.
“In this case we have some countries that have a similar picture, and some that are totally different,” said the PLANTLIBRA coordinator.
Indeed, in both Germany and Italy the top reason to take such products is related to digestive functions, while in the UK the top two reasons for consumers to take botanicals relate to mood and menopause.
She added that in Romania and Germany Ginkgo biloba is the most commonly consumed botanical ingredient, while in the UK Oenothera biennis is the most commonly consumed botanical.
Cynara scolymus tops the list in Spain, while Aloe vera is most popular in Italy and Glycine max is the most consumed ingredient in Finland, says the data.