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september 2012

Flower Power

H B Sowbhagya
From insect repellent to poultry feed to edible oil, the bloom in your garden patch could be holding powers untold. Get to know the wonder of marigold, the flavours of hibiscus and the saffron take of safflower in a run through their nutritional and medicinal benefits.

Wonders Of Marigold
Marigold is an ornamental plant belonging to Compositae family, grown in certain parts of India and parts of the world. The Marigold flower is available in various shades of yellow, red and orange. The two species of marigold include the African Aztec with yellow or orange large flower heads and the French marigold with smaller single or double heads and two tones—yellow or orange and red.

Its leaves contain aromatic oil and the main colouring component of the flower is lutein, a carotenoid pigment present as esters of fatty acids. Concentration of lutein in fresh flowers varies from 4 mg/g in greenish yellow flowers to 800 mg/g in dark orange flowers.
Strength training is the use of resistance to muscular contraction to build strength, anaerobic endurance and size of skeletal muscles.

Lutein palmitate is the major ester in the flower, and a purified extract of marigold petals containing dipalmitate is marketed as an eye ointment called Adaptinol.

Extracting Marigold Benefits
Fully bloomed marigold flowers with minimum calyx portion are collected during the season, stored in a closed room or in a storage bin covered with a layer of lime and black tarpaulin. The stored flowers are withdrawn whenever required, dewatered and dried in shade or at low temperature.
  • Marigold flowers are used as marigold meal. It is obtained by dried and powdered flowers and finds use in poultry food.
  • The concentrate is obtained by the extraction of dried flowers with an organic solvent and desolventized.
  • The concentrate mixed with soy or corn meal, is used in poultry feed to enhance the yellow yolk colour.
  • The marigold flower extract cannot be directly used in food. It has to be subjected to further purification to get purified pigment lutein (of 75 per cent–90 per cent purity).
  • A decoction of dried marigold flowers and leaves sprayed on other garden plants effectively protects these plants from insect attacks.
Lutein Benefits
  • Lutein and its isomer zeaxanthin pigment in marigold flowers are unique because they are also present in the macula, the small area of the retina responsible for central vision and high visual acuity. The serum levels of lutein are known to have an impact on age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Intake of lutein containing foods or lutein supplements is found to improve the vision in patients suffering from AMD and other ocular diseases. It is concluded by a study that 6 mg lutein a day may reduce the risk of AMD by 43 `per cent, equivalent to consuming 850 g of corn, 6800 g of tomato, 2 salad bowls of spinach or one salad bowl of kale.
  • Recent studies show that lutein and zeaxanthin maintain heart health by reducing the risk of atherosclerosis.
  • The presence of lutein in the skin and its oral consumption is known to reduce UV-induced damage.
  • Lutein is healthy when incorporated in yoghurt at 3 mg per 170 g of yoghurt.
  • Application of β-carotene or lutein between 25 and 75 mg/kg as a natural colourant in mayonnaise containing β-glucan, and lutein added to cheddar cheese at a concentration of 1–6 mg per serving size, is also acceptable.
As a food additive, the acceptable daily intake of lutein is 2 mg/kg of your body weight.

Flavours Of Hibiscus (Roselle)
  • Fleshy red calyces of hibiscus are used for making wine, juice, jam, jelly, syrup, gelatin, pudding, cakes, and ice cream.
  • Dried calyces are brewed as tea, used in butter, pies, sauces, tarts and desserts.
  • The young leaves and tender stems of roselle are eaten raw in salads or cooked as greens alone or in combination with other vegetables and with meat. They have an acidic rhubarb-like flavour.
  • The seeds are high in protein. They are roasted and powdered for use in soups and sauces. They can also be used as a coffee substitute.
  • Roselle has been used in folk medicine as a diuretic, mild laxative and for the treatment of cardiac, nerve diseases and cancer.
  • Its ability to increase urination is attributed to ascorbic acid and glycolic acid.
  • It is used as a cooling herb because of its citric acid content. It provides relief during hot weather by increasing the flow of blood to the skin surface and dilating the pores to cool.
  • The leaves and flowers are used as a tonic tea for digestive and kidney functions and are also believed to reduce bad cholesterol.
  • Heated leaves are applied to feet cracks and on boils and ulcers to speed maturation. A lotion prepared from the leaves is applied on sores and wounds for healing.
Nothing Saffron In Safflower!
  • It is traditionally used for colouring and flavouring of foods and for making dyes.
  • Of late, the plant is mainly cultivated for extracting edible oil from its seeds.
  • Safflower flowers are sometimes used as an adulterant for saffron and hence referred as ‘bastard saffron’ and occasionally used in cooking as a cheaper substitute for saffron.
  • The Chinese use safflower florets in medicine as a blood herb.
  • Safflower concentrate is used in carbonated soft drinks.
  • Dried flowers are used in Chinese medicine to increase circulation, to alleviate pain and reduce bruising. They are used in herbal medicine for treating menstrual pain and physical trauma.A
  • Tender stems and leaves are edible and herbal tea made out of safflower petals is good for health.
  • Colour extract from safflower petals is used as a natural colour in beverages.
H B Sowbhagya is Senior Technical Officer, Plantation Products, Spices & Flavour Technology, CFTRI, Mysore.