Questions & Answers. All about plant extracts and their benefits.
With this post we are going to try to resolve any possible doubts about natural extracts and to explain why they are so value-related and the ultimate ingredient. Let’s start!
Contenido del artículo
- What is a plant extract?
- What is an extract for?
- In which foods extracts can be applied?
- In which other areas extracts can be applied?
- Why olive extract are necessary to obtain the healthy benefits of this plant?
- Which is the difference between extracts and oils?
- Which is the process to obtain a plant extract?
- Can extracts be taken or applied directly?
- Are extracts free of allergens?
- How much amount of extract requires a formulation?
- Are final products with extracts more expensive?
- Does the quality of the raw material have some influence in the extract?
- Which other factors should be considered when choosing an extract?
- What path do the extracts have?
What is a plant extract?
Vegetable extracts are products extracted directly from the fruits, leaves, seeds or roots of a plant, which contain components with capacity to perform a useful action in our body when we take them through a food, a dietary supplement or when we apply them in the skin via cosmetics. They also accomplish activities of conservation and antioxidation on those foods and cosmetics.
A good example of a plant extract with great antioxidant properties and multiple benefits for both health and skin is the extract of the olive fruit with high contents of Hydroxytyrosol.
What is an extract for?
Extracts contain the most important active components of the plant from where they come. The concentration of some of these active compounds may be thousands of times higher in an extract than in the original vegetable.
These characteristics allow many possibilities of use. Some of them are:
- To increase the dose of an active compound already present in a food to make it actually effective in the body, providing a healthy benefit.
- To incorporate a natural active compound into a food to increase its shelf life. Because extracts can minimize microbial attacks, protect food from rancidity and slow the loss of color. For example, rosemary is an excellent antioxidant and antimicrobial agent for processed food such as meat sausages. The leaves have been traditionally used in the elaboration of these products at home and small butcheries; today extracts let to enhance the properties of this plant at industrial level, replacing synthetic ingredients.
- To add the bioactive essence of a vegetable in a cosmetic.
- To provide the body – though a dietary supplement – a dose of an active compound to minimize the rise of certain diseases. Without the extract, large amount of food should be taken to achieve the same effective doses.
- To innovate products based on a great amount of healthy properties.
In which foods extracts can be applied?
In solid foods (processed meat), liquid (juices, milk, functional drinks), creamy (yogurt, sauces), fatty (oils), aqueous (soups), etc. An example: the incorporation of olive extract in the mayonnaise allows to enhance its flavor and to provide vitamins and polyphenols.
In which other areas extracts can be applied?
To obtain functional feed with healthy benefits to the animal organism. These benefits also have an impact on the health of people who consume their meat or eggs.
The pharmaceutical industry is another area for which they are well indicated due to the increasing use of natural products. In this case, extracts are applied via a dietary supplement, also known as a nutraceuticals. Read: The olive tree, a plant with a lot of potential for Nutraceuticals.
Extracts are also largely responsible of the activity of cosmetic products. Creams, serums, lotions and soaps take advantage of the benefits of plants due to the direct action of natural extracts. Visit: Plant ingredients to formulate natural cosmetics.
Why olive extract are necessary to obtain the healthy benefits of this plant?
EFSA (European Food Safety Agency) ruled in 2011 that the consumption of Hydroxytyrosol from the fruit of the olive tree prevents the oxidation of LDL in blood (the so-called bad cholesterol), which is related to a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases such as arteriosclerosis. To obtain this benefit, it would be necessary to consume at least 5 mg of Hydroxytyrosol per day. Taking that amount from olive oil, it is very difficult as there is practically no commercial oil which contains 250 mg of Hydroxytyrosol (the minimum concentration to provide a daily intake of 5 mg). Therefore, the solution is to enrich oils with Hydroxytyrosol extracts or taking the same amount via nutraceutical formulations.
Which is the difference between extracts and oils?
Extracts come from a part of a vegetable. These products have been purified and are rich in a standardized component at a given concentration. For example, citrus extracts.
On the other hand, oils are composed basically by fatty acids, although they can contain smaller compounds like polyphenols or vitamins. They are obtained directly through the pressing of the fruits and seeds, a process that releases and separates physically oils from the rest of the components that are part of the fruit.
Purified vegetable extracts cannot be confused with extracted oils. The second ones are a type of oil not separated by centrifugation but with a extraction porcess using a solvent of equal polarity to the oil.
Which is the process to obtain a plant extract?
Moving the components of plants to an accessible format to human beings requires some processes. Some formats like oil only require a mechanical action (the pressing) while others like extracts need a chemical process, using water as solvent in many cases.
Nevertheless, we can say it is a natural product since the work in the laboratory is minimally invasive and the secondary elements involved come from natural substances.
Can extracts be taken or applied directly?
No, they can’t. Extracts need a vehicle to carry the active component into the human body. The method is usually by oral ingestion or dermal application. In the first case, via food and dietary supplements. Once inside, the extract becomes available upon entering into the bloodstream, which transports the component to the point where the extract exerts its beneficial activity.
On the other hand, dermal application requires a cosmetic formulation. The effects provided are different since the biochemical mechanisms are not the same. In fact, the assets of a cosmetic never reach the bloodstream.
Are extracts free of allergens?
Only as long as the plant from which they come does not have allergens and there has been no cross contamination in the production process of the extracts.
Nutexa extracts are free of allergens since the vegetable products from which they come do not contain them and because the factories that manufacture them only work with allergen free products, avoiding any possibility of a cross contamination.
How much amount of extract requires a formulation?
Generally formulations with extracts only need very low doses, although it depends on the type of extract and the effects that are intended to be achieved with its use, always respecting the limit doses that may lead to some type of toxicity.
In most cases, doses contain a few parts per million (ppm) , and in very specific cases we can reach even a few percentage points.
Are final products with extracts more expensive?
Although sometimes it may seem that extracts prices are expensive, we have to remark that only very low doses are needed. Therefore, their impact on the final price of the formulated product is low or it has little repercussion.
An appropriate way to make an opinion about the price is comparing the dose ratio employed versus the effectiveness shown or the benefits provided by the use of the extract in the final product.
Does the quality of the raw material have some influence in the extract?
Yes, it does. In fact, it is very important to assure the proper choice of the raw material since not all varieties of the same plant provide the same actives, nor in the same concentrations. Even some varieties can provide unwanted components.
Which other factors should be considered when choosing an extract?
In order to obtain extracts of high quality and safe for the user, it is very important to ensure the quality systems implemented and carried out by the supplier. These quality systems should include exhaustive controls on the raw material, the hygiene in the facilities and personnel, analytical quality controls on each of the stages of production, etc.
More information: The value of the ISO 22000 stardard in the food industry.
On the other hand, a fast and efficient custom service is highly important to resolve doubts or problems, as well as guiding the client for obtaining the most appropriate formula.
Finally, certificates such as Ecocert, which guarantees that the material comes from organic farming or from natural origin – as it happens with Nutexa’s olive extracts – are also valuable when selecting an extract.
What path do the extracts have?
The versatility of the extracts predicts a prolific future. R&D departments are already demonstrating the wide diversity of applications in which extracts can be used. On the other hand, consumers are demanding more and more natural and functional products, which need formulas containing plant extracts to meet this objective.
Read more about the potential of extracts in this interview to Nutexa’s general director.