Look to the East for natural functional ingredients

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Industry should be looking to plants used in traditional Chinese medicine for the next wave of functional ingredients, according to Professor Monique Simmonds of Kew Gardens.

Functional ingredients from natural sources are an important area of development. Professor Simmonds, who head of the sustainable uses of plants group at the Royal Botanic Gardens, in the UK, told NutraIngredients that the industry that whilst there are plants in Europe that have shown a great deal of promise, they should be looking to the East, and China in particular, for the biggest developments in natural ingredients.

“I think there are European and Asian plants that are showing potential, some of the roses for example and European plants like Elder – I think there is going to be more potential there,”​ said Simmonds.

“But if I had to say ‘watch this space’ for one area I’d have to say plants associated with traditional Chinese medicines,”​ she explained.

Simmonds said that whilst there are already some ingredients from Chinese herbs and medicinal plants moving into the European markets, she believed the future will see “a lot more”​ making the move.

Traditional use

The botanicals expert said that her belief that such plants will provide a rich vein of ingredients for uses in foods and supplements is based on the fact that there is a lot of historical documentation to back up the uses of such plants in the diet or in medicine – something she believes will make it easier to get regulatory approval in the EU.

“You have 4000 years of use and records, which makes it easier to support some of the claims than for other areas of the world such as Africa where I think the plants have a lot to offer but there isn’t a written tradition there about the uses of the plant,”​ she explained.

“If you’re trying to support some of the claims for traditional uses then it therefore becomes difficult.”

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