Flowers and plants are beautiful. People buy them to cheer up, to make life more colourful or to be green. Some plants even clean the air you’re breathing. But that’s about it. Or is there more?
Yes, there is more. Some flowers contain ingredients that can be extracted and used by the pharmaceutical or cosmetic industries. A striking example is found in Daffodils. They contain galantamine, found in medication to combat Alzheimer’s disease. This is but one of many examples. The use of flowers in the cosmetic industry has a long and storied history.
In order to create new opportunities for the industry, a number of growers/breeders of food and plants have joined forces with Wageningen University. One of these opportunities is the production of plant ingredients for medications, fragrances, dyes and seasonings. The challenge of bringing this to fruition lies in finding the optimal climate conditions to raise these plants and discovering additional promising crops.
Leaving chemical production
It makes sense to use ingredients that are natural to ornamental plants in medicines and cosmetics. For over one hundred years, the development of new medicines and cosmetics has often entailed the use of chemical ingredients and methods. In a sustainable world this is increasingly less viable. Consumers now ask for ‘cleaner’ medicines and cosmetics. Using ornamental plants for ingredients is relatively new so there is much to unearth. New partnerships of commercial horticultural firms, research institutes and producers of pharmaceuticals and cosmetics are on the rise because they all see game-changing opportunities.
Chances for producers
As we speak, Daffodils are being produced for the extraction of galantamine. There is an increasing body of knowledge being built up about this process. It is only a matter of time before there will be substantial production of certain flowers, not for their beauty but for their ingredients. This would create opportunities worldwide because if the flower or bulb isn’t the main goal of growing Daffodils, you could probably do this anywhere in the world.
It goes without saying that this production will have to follow strict regulations. Using chemical pesticides, for instance, is likely to be forbidden. And if you do business with pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies, a steady supply will be vital.
Having said that, growing plants for their ingredients sure might have a future.