Botanical extracts have been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments. Today, they are gaining popularity as natural alternatives to traditional medicine. Botanical extracts are made from leaves, flowers, roots, and other parts of plants. They are usually taken in the form of capsules, tablets, or teas.
Botanical extracts are believed to have a number of health benefits, including the ability to boost the immune system, fight inflammation, and improve digestion. They are also thought to help reduce stress and anxiety. While more research is needed to confirm these benefits, botanical extracts are a safe and effective way to improve your health.
What are botanical extracts?
Botanical extracts are plant materials with concentrated therapeutic properties. They come in powder or liquid form, and you can extract them by steam distillation, cold pressing, or oil immersion. Once this process is complete, you will have a highly concentrated ingredient that absorbs and effectively targets specific skin concerns.
A variety of skin, hair, and dental products have plant extracts that are in concentrated form for medicinal purposes. The botanical extract can replenish the skin. They are often added to skin care products because of their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties.
Botanical extracts are highly concentrated and usually lower on the ingredient list because they are listed by volume. A small amount of botanical extract can be very effective, so just because it ranks lower on the ingredient list doesn’t mean it will be less effective.
They have been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. As research progresses, companies can more accurately harness the benefits of these extracts.
The history of botanical extracts
In the early 1980s, developed countries such as Europe and the United States, which had basically completed industrialization, set off a trend of returning to nature. People’s attention and rejection of chemical synthesis products with side effects gradually increased, and their favor for natural and safe plant extracts returned.
For praise, the industry should rise in response. In 1994, the United States promulgated the “Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act”, which officially recognized the use of plant extracts as a food supplement, and the plant extract industry developed rapidly.
Chinese medicine has a long history, and medical personnel has attached great importance to the analysis of the traits and medicinal properties of plants since ancient times.
By the 1970s, some domestic pharmaceutical factories began to use mechanical equipment to extract plant components, but this was only used as a production link of pharmaceutical manufacturing and did not develop into an independent industry.
After the mid-1990s, with the deepening of opening to the outside world, foreign trade began to flourish, and the plant extract industry, which was less restricted by policies, began to develop.
Since the 21st century, the plant extract industry has entered a golden age. On the one hand, this is due to the improvement of living standards and the enhancement of health awareness, which has driven people’s strong demand for plant extract products; on the other hand, it has benefited from more advanced plant extraction technologies (such as enzymatic extraction, ultrasonic extraction, supercritical extraction) , microwave extraction, membrane separation technology, etc.) have greatly improved production efficiency.
According to Innova, between 2014 and 2018, the global growth rate of food and beverages using plant-based ingredients reached 8%. Market researchers see Latin America as the key growth market for the segment, with a CAGR of 24% during the period, followed by Australia (10%) and Asia (9%).
Among the market categories, sauces and condiments accounted for the largest market share, and this segment accounted for 20% of the global plant-based application new product market share in 2018, followed by ready-to-eat meals and side dishes (14%), snacks (11%) , meat products and eggs (9%) and baked goods (9%).
Additionally, the sports nutrition segment emerged as the fastest-growing market category for botanical ingredients, driven by growth in botanical supplements, with a CAGR of 25% in 2018, followed by the alcoholic beverages category at 22%.
How do botanical extracts work?
Plant extracts refer to a class of substances derived from plants that have one or more biological functions. Most of these active substances are secondary metabolites in the process of plant growth and development, and are also the material basis for active ingredients to exert biological functions.
The chemical structures of their active ingredients often contain groups such as phenols, ethers, terpenes, and ketones. These organic functional groups are not only the effectors for the identification and identification of active ingredients, but also the binding sites for factors related to target organs when they function in vivo point.
There are many kinds of plant extracts used in production, mainly extracted from different parts of the plant or the whole plant, the content and function of the active ingredients will vary depending on the part used and the place of origin in the harvest season. The most widely used ingredients are plant essential oils, polysaccharides, saponins, flavonoids, and plant tannins. Studies have proved that plant extracts have the effects of promoting growth, anti-oxidation and anti-aging, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, enhancing immunity, astringent and antidiarrheal.
The Health Benefits of botanical extracts
One of the key advantages of botanical extracts is that the phytochemicals they contain are potent and easily absorbed. This is mainly because plant extracts can go directly into the bloodstream and the effects tend to be felt more quickly.
Plants have always had powerful healing properties, which is why a diet rich in a variety of colorful vegetables, fruits, and fresh-cut herbs has benefited many people suffering from chronic illness. This is where botanical extracts can play a role. They can provide an added layer of healing properties that complement a well-balanced diet and lifestyle.
Another great botanical extract benefit is the fact that these liquid tinctures are so versatile. They can be taken directly from the bottle using a dropper, added to foods or beverages, and combined with other botanical extracts to create healing elixirs, syrups, teas, salves, essential oils, and more.
If you’re someone who has trouble swallowing capsules or tablets, a botanical extract is a great option because it’s liquid-based and easy to consume. And there are plenty of options to suit your needs when it comes to the tincture base, such as alcohol, glycerin, water, or even vinegar.
For example, if you are suffering from digestive upset like bloating, gas, indigestion, and so on, but an alcohol-based solution irritates your mouth, the Wise Woman Herbals’ Tummy Glycerite is a great option.
It combines three botanical extracts (fennel, lemon balm, and chamomile) in a sweet glycerin and spring water base to help promote digestive relief and an overall sense of calm.
Lastly, the ability to isolate certain bioactive compounds and combine certain herbs offers a highly customizable and targeted approach to your health.
For a lot of people with chronic illness, less is more when it comes to dietary supplements. Too many ingredients can overwhelm the system, and some of the ingredients may not even be necessary for you.
Botanical extracts provide targeted healing properties for specific health concerns, combining various products for optimal healing. For example, if your goal is to better support your adrenals while also promoting healthy liver function, you might focus on two single plant extracts like ashwagandha and milk thistle.
The different types of botanical extracts
There are a wide variety of types of botanical extracts, there’s an essential oil, Hydrosols, Alcohol Tinctures, CO2 extracts, Glycerites, Powdered Extracts, And more!
These botanical extracts are amazing ingredients to use in formulations when you want to imbue your products with a specific plant’s beneficial properties in a concentrated, effective way.
Essential oils extracted from plants are very concentrated, volatile, and aromatic, and are extracted from an aromatic herb through steam distillation. Because essential oils are extremely concentrated, dilution is crucial to ensure the oil is safe and effective on the skin.
However, because of the high concentration, essential oils have been found to have potent antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties.
Essential oils are all about fragrance and are used for therapeutic benefits. When inhaled, the fragrance travels to the emotional center of the brain, which then produces a change within a person.
The benefits of essential oils depend on the type you choose, but common benefits include the alleviation of anxiety, depression, fatigue, nausea, insomnia, low appetite, and body aches.
Compared to water, alcohol is a more effective solvent and is used in making tinctures. There are also tinctures made with part alcohol and part water, too.
A few common alcohol-based tinctures used in skincare products are:
- Horse chestnut
Alcohol and Alcohol/Water Tinctures are water-soluble as well and can be used in skincare formulations by adding them to your hydrous products e.g. toners and spritzers or your emulsions e.g. creams and lotions.
However, one thing to be aware of with alcohol tinctures is that the high ethanol content can be drying or even irritating for sensitive skin. So just be aware of how much of it you’re using in your products, and what type of product you use it in.
Water is not a very strong solvent and there are not many plants that are commonly extracted using water. A few common water-based botanical extracts that are used in skin care products include:
- Green tea extract
- Aloe extract
- Cucumber extract
You can incorporate these water-based extracts into your skincare products by using them in your hydrous (water-based) products e.g. toners and spritzers or emulsions (creams and lotions).
Note: Some people like to make their own water-based extracts by infusing herbs in hot water (just like making tea). While this might sound appealing we don’t recommend it as it can introduce contaminants into your products and make them very hard to preserve.
For this type of extract, instead of alcohol or water, the solvent used is glycerin (or a glycerin-water mixture.)
Some common Glycerites you might want to try in your formulations are:
- Horse chestnut
As glycerites have a glycerin base they also function as humectants which means they attract moisture to the skin and keep it hydrated. They can sometimes feel quite sticky if used at a concentration of 3-4% and above. Glycerites are water-soluble.
CO2 extracts are really fascinating, because instead of using water, alcohol, or a mixture of the two, plant material is extracted using supercritical carbon dioxide.
A supercritical fluid is one that is held at a specific temperature and pressure, allowing it to behave like many of the commonly used solvents (like acetone, chloroform, or ethyl acetate) but with the benefit of easily evaporating out, leaving behind no harmful residue.
This leaves behind only the pure extract of the plant. In the case of CO2, the extraction process can be done at a very low temperature, which is less harmful to the active components of the plant material.
CO2 extracts are oil soluble, and in some ways, they can be similar to:
- Essential oils, in that they can contain a high quantity of volatile aromatic molecules. (For example, lavender CO2 extract.)
- Carrier oils, in that they can be predominantly made of triglycerides. (Sea buckthorn CO2 extract is a good example of this.)
- Or, they can resemble very concentrated oil extracts. (Calendula CO2 extract appears this way.)
CO2 extracts can be used in anhydrous (oil-based) products or emulsions (creams and lotions).
How to use botanical extracts
According to the different needs of different groups of people, different physiological conditions, as well as the principles of nutritional diet and physiological function regulation, food formulas with different nutritional and health care functions have been designed in a targeted manner, and a large number of experiments have been carried out to confirm that these different formulas are made. Foods do have their respective required functional properties.
Daily Chemicals and Cosmetics
It can be used for cosmetic moisturizing, water, and oil balance, skin problems, etc.
Plant extracts can be used in health products to play a variety of roles. Plant extracts can improve memory, anti-fatigue, regulate blood pressure and blood lipids, improve gastrointestinal function, anti-oxidation, anti-aging, etc.
At present, active pharmaceutical ingredients can be obtained from plant extraction: such as paclitaxel. Ginsenosides, etc.
Many plant extracts can be used in animal feed， These raw materials and additives are mostly used for animal intestinal health and immunity.