The time when the doctors will prescribe extracts of some plants along with medicines is getting close. Currently, the School of Pharmacy of the University of Athens produces extracts with specific substances from olive fruits, olive leafs, and olive oil and distributes them in the market for developing products varying from dietary supplements to cosmetics. The production is conducted by scientists following specific development process and standards and of course it has nothing to do with the “frapelia” madness which in the past had led people in boiling olive tree leaves to achieve longevity.
“The idea of producing these products was to apply in practice the results of the research that we have conducted in our labs over the last years”, stated to Ypaithros Chora Dr. Ekaterini Argiropoulou, the researcher of the Pharmacy School of University of Athens, who is also a scientific associate of PharmaGnose, being responsible for the Research of Aromatic and Pharmaceutical Plants.
It regards three olive products. The first is produced through olive tree leafs extracts which contain high levels of oleuropein, a substance that has been certified by the European Medicines Agency as diuretic. The specific extract is produced in a solid form. The second regards the aqueous extract produced by the olive fruit, and which contains hydroxytyrosol, a substance which the European Medicines Agency has certified as antioxidant. “As the specific report specifically indicates 5mg of the substance in the olive oil, in order for one to claim the health assertion that concerns the antioxidant effect requires the capsule produced (when creating a food supplement for example) to contain olive oil ”, Dr. Argiropoulou pointed. The third extract is produced from the olive oil and concerns a product which contains a set of the phenological substances of olive oil (such as hydroxytyrosol and its derivatives) which are processed by scientists with the enrichment method.
Apart from the extracts, the lab is able to produce pure compounds. To be precise, not exactly the lab on its own. The extraction and the development of the products is taking place at the facilities of a factory which produces natural products and cosmetics and which the laboratory rents through a spinoff company that the University has established. “We are not able neither to buy the required equipment nor to proceed with such an investment” Dr. Leandros Skaltsounis, the director of the Department of Pharmacognosy and Chemistry of Natural Products of the Pharmacy School of the National Kapodistrian University of Athens (NKUA) stated.
The extracts and the substances which are produced later on, are sold as raw materials to companies which integrate them in various products. The market demand for such products is high and thus, new horizons are opening for the cultivators regarding the exploitation of their products.
Nevertheless, this requires the application of specific cultivation practices and standards. “You cannot cultivate a product which claims health benefits and use high quantities of pesticides” Dr. Argiropoulou emphasizes. Today, many “magic” products are distributed in markets, claiming to have effect in health, beauty, juvenileness and other without having any certification.
This exactly is the reason why European Union has compiled a catalogue which lists all the plants which have received a certification from the European Medicines Agency and thus can be used as “medicines” with specific health assertions under specific standards and conditions. “We are not far from the time when the doctor will be able to prescribe products from olive tree leaf extracts along with a medicine for high blood pressure (the name of the medicine is not provided for obvious reasons),” states Dr. Skaltsounis.
The pharmaceutical plants that have been included in the list, among others, also include the Cretan oregano and mastic (which in a pill form and having a specific concentration can be used for indigestion) are being studied in dozens of labs from scientists all over the world in order to discover the therapeutic characteristics they have.
Many of the substances contained could be used as a raw material for the production of medicines. However, this would require a different process, many studies and experiments as well clinical studies. It is very important for the consumers to be aware that the dietary supplements can assist combat health problems but in no means they can substitute foods and especially medicines.