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What Are Plant Extracts?


According to process and intrinsic quality, plant extracts can be divided into simple extracts, quantitative extracts, standardized extracts, and purified extracts.
  • Author Name: Tylor Keller
Editor: Tylor Keller Last Updated: 25-Mar-2021

Plant extract refers to a product that is formed through an extraction and separation process where plants are used as raw materials. Generally the original components of the plants are not changed. In some cases, excipients are also used to make the powder or granular products have features like good fluidity and resistance to moisture absorption. There are also a small amount of liquid or oily plant extract products.

According to process and intrinsic quality, plant extracts can be divided into simple extracts, quantitative extracts, standardized extracts, and purified extracts. Based on the product form, they are classified into solid extracts, liquid extracts, and soft extracts. Also, based on the formula, they are divided into single medicine extract, compound Chinese medicine extract, and component extract.

Application of plant extracts

Plant extracts can be applied as and in a wide range of scenarios, including natural pigments, natural sweeteners, functional plant extracts, traditional Chinese medicine extracts, and plant essential oils used in food, additives, special foods and health foods, daily chemicals and cosmetics, formula particles and APIs.

Natural coloring

Using roots, stems, leaves, flowers and fruits of plants as the initial raw materials, and in together with appropriate solvent, an organic matter is prepared through separation, refining and drying processes. This kind of organic matter is called plant extract natural pigments. At present, there are more than 40 main natural pigments on the market, such as capsicum red pigment, marigold extract, gardenia yellow pigment, curcumin and so on.

Natural sweetener

Products obtained by extracting and processing natural synthetic sweet components in natural plants are usually called natural sweeteners. According to its sweetness, it can be divided into low-intensity sweeteners such as sucrose and beet sugar, and high-intensity sweeteners such as steviol glycosides, mogrosides, sweet tea glycosides, licorice extracts and neohesperidin dihydrochalcone. The replacement of sugar with natural high-strength sweeteners is the main trend in the current food and beverage industry.

Functional plant extracts

At present, there are 27 main health functions claimed by health foods, and plant extracts can be found in each of these functions:

  1. Enhance immunity: ginseng extract, cordyceps extract.
  2. Assist in lowering blood lipids: Tartary buckwheat extract, dandelion extract.
  3. Assist in lowering blood sugar: bitter gourd extract, wolfberry extract.
  4. Antioxidant: grape seed extract.
  5. Aid to improve memory: Ginkgo biloba extract, fenugreek extract.
  6. Relieve visual fatigue: bilberry extract, blueberry extract, and lutein.
  7. Promote lead discharge: pepper extract, sea buckthorn extract, grapefruit peel extract.
  8. Help clear the throat: Honeysuckle extract, licorice extract, Luo Han Guo extract.
  9. Assist in lowering blood pressure: Gynostemma pentaphyllum extract, rutin extract.
  10. Improve sleep: Acanthopanax senticosus extract, Jujube seed extract, Valerian extract.
  11. Promote lactation: Pueraria lobata extract.
  12. Relieve physical fatigue: Ganoderma lucidum extract.
  13. Improve hypoxia tolerance: Rhodiola rosea extract.
  14. Auxiliary protection against radiation hazards: Saussurea extract, lycopene, spirulina extract.
  15. Weight loss: Pueraria lobata flower extract, lotus leaf extract, garcinia cambogia extract.
  16. Improve growth and development: flavonoids.
  17. Increase bone density: spinach, cabbage, kidney beans, oats.
  18. Improve nutritional anemia: Maca extract.
  19. Auxiliary protection against chemical liver damage: milk thistle extract.
  20. Anti-acne: Magnolia Bark Extract, Strawberry Seed Extract.
  21. Eliminate chloasma: Glycyrrhiza glabra extract.
  22. Improve skin moisture: Astragalus root extract, rosemary extract.
  23. Improve skin oil content: green tea extract, lavender extract.
  24. Regulate intestinal flora: prebiotic plant extracts.
  25. Promote digestion: Hawthorn extract.
  26. Laxative: Cassia Seed Extract, Senna Leaf Extract.
  27. Auxiliary protection against gastric mucosal damage: sea buckthorn oil, Hericium erinaceus extract.

Chinese medicine extract

Chinese medicine formula granules: It is made by water extraction, concentration, drying, and granulation. After the clinical formula, it can be used by patients. TCM formula granules are a supplement to traditional Chinese medicine decoction pieces.

Traditional Chinese medicine extraction raw materials: a single active ingredient with a clear pharmaceutical active ingredient obtained via extraction and separation of traditional Chinese medicinal materials or natural plants. Some can be used as raw materials for traditional Chinese medicine preparation, and some, including penicillin, paclitaxel, and camptothecin, also can be used for chemical medicine preparations.

Standardized Chinese medicine extract: mainly refers to the Chinese medicine extracts included in the "Plant Oils and Extracts" item of the Pharmacopoeia. A total of 47 vegetable oils and extracts are included in the 2015 Chinese Pharmacopoeia.

Plant essential oil

Plant essential oil is a kind of aromatic oily liquid extracted from plants. There are more than 3000 kinds of plant essential oils, of which about 300 kinds have important commercial value. In addition to being used as spices, plant essential oils are also a class of natural antibacterial materials, which can inhibit bacteria, fungi and viruses. Because of its aromatic taste and antibacterial activity, plant essential oils are widely used in daily chemicals (such as perfume, cosmetics, hand cream, soap, fresh air, antiseptic), medicines, food and beverages, feed (such as oregano oil), pest control, etc. China is the world's largest producer and exporter of raw materials of Litsea cubeba essential oil, accounting for about 70% of the international market.

New plant extract products and their new applications are constantly being developed. The products that have received broad attention are: industrial hemp CBD, plant essential oils, rosemary, sweeteners, tannins, etc.