Botanicals: Research round-up

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Botanicals have been the subject of numerous studies, all eager to add scientific credence to their reported health benefits.  ©iStock/ChamilleWhite
Botanicals have been the subject of numerous studies, all eager to add scientific credence to their reported health benefits. ©iStock/ChamilleWhite

Related tags Antioxidant activity Soybean

As part of our special edition on botanicals, NutraIngredients takes a look at recent research of some popular botanical ingredients.



Echinacea’s immune-boosting effects have long been used as a herbal preparation to ward off colds and flus.

A review​looked at the herb’s efficacy in managing respiratory tract infections. Drawing from a bank of 66 journal articles that included 20 clinical trials, 20 reviews, and one case report, researchers from Iran University of Medical Sciences (IUMS), concluded there was considerable evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of echinacea products in prevention and treatment of respiratory tract infections.

It wasn’t all positive as the team highlighted some controversial findings, including several studies that did not show any benefit.

These were supplemented by several reviews and meta-analysis that commented against the beneficial application of Echinacea products.

Despite these uncertainties its safety appeared watertight in subjects without predefined contraindications.


fennel seeds

While the bulk of research has focused on essential oil yield, there have been pockets of study activity looking into the antioxidant and antibacterial activities of fennel.

Plants with high antibacterial and antioxidant activity are sought out to improve the quality of products in the food industry.

These properties are due to many active phytochemicals, such as phenolic compounds, flavanoids, terpenoids and carotenoids.

A study​ by researchers from the Isfahan University of Technology in Iran is one example. Here, extracts of 23 fennel samples were assessed and their major compounds were identified.

The flavonoids, quercetin and apigenin were found to be the most abundant in fennel with samples exhibiting higher antioxidant activity also demonstrating higher anti-glycative activity.

“Fennel extracts and their active components might offer remarkable prospects for preventive treatment of diabetic complications,”​ the study suggested.

“Fennel samples revealed high variation in major flavonoids (quercetin, apigenin and rutin) and phenolic (chlorogenic, caffeic and 1,5-dicaffeoylquinic acid) compounds. These compounds could strongly affect the antioxidant, antimicrobial and antiglycative activities of the extracts.”

Soy bean

Isoflavones soy soya bean

A study​ looking into the soybean (Glycine max L)​ once again confirmed its anti-inflammatory properties.

Here, seven alkaloid derivatives were isolated from an extract of kanjang, a byproduct of the production of the Korean fermented soybean.

The soy bean’s anti-neuroinflammatory effects were observed in cells located in the central nervous system. The team, from Wonkwang University in Korea proposed a mechanism of action that inhibited the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals, nitric oxide and prostaglandin E2.


ginger extract

Ginger’s effects on nausea related to pregnancy or chemotherapy has been well documented in the past adding to other areas of interest including diabetes, menstrual pain, and arthritis.

Now a new study​ further delves into the main bioactives in ginger - gingerols and shogoals, and its potential applications into allergic dermatitis (AD) or eczema.

Shogaols, the dehydrated form of gingerols, are found in only small quantities in the fresh root and are mainly present in dried and thermally treated roots,

The findings revealed the efficacy of 6-Shogaol was such that AD-like skin lesions were reduced by inhibiting immune mediators. The researchers thought that thiese findings may form the basis of an effective alternative therapy for AD.

“Ginger is commonly used as foods seasoning worldwide, and has long been one of the most frequently used medicinal plants for a wide array of unrelated diseases,”​ the team from Daegu Haany University, Korea commented.

“As a natural compound, 6-shogaol is a promising ingredient because of its strengths in structural simplicity and natural abundance.”

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