Exploring Mullein Flower Extracts as Natural Pigments with Health Benefits

Greg Howard
14th May, 2024

Exploring Mullein Flower Extracts as Natural Pigments with Health Benefits

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Researchers at Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha studied crocins from Verbascum flowers and genetically engineered tomatoes as natural food colorants
  • Crocins significantly increased the antioxidant activity in rice, cous-cous, and maize noodles without any toxicity
  • Crocins were more bioaccessible from rice than from cous-cous or maize noodles, highlighting the importance of the food matrix for absorption
In recent years, there has been a growing consumer demand for natural colors in food products. However, the availability of stable and vibrant natural food colorants remains limited due to technical and regulatory challenges. Natural pigments not only enhance the visual appeal of food but also offer various health benefits, which are often underutilized in the food industry[2]. A recent study conducted by researchers at the Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha explores the potential of crocins, bioactive compounds known for their yellow pigmentation and antioxidant properties, as functional ingredients in food products[1]. Crocins are glucosylated apocarotenoids found in certain plants, including saffron, gardenia, Buddleja, and Verbascum species. These compounds are recognized for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which contribute to their potential health benefits. While saffron extracts have been used in functional foods, other crocin-producing plants have not been extensively utilized in the food industry. This study aimed to evaluate the use of ground dry flowers from two Verbascum species and dry fruit powder from a genetically engineered tomato plant rich in crocins, as natural colorants and functional ingredients in various food matrices. The study involved incorporating these crocin-rich ingredients into rice, wheat cous-cous, and maize noodles to provide yellow pigmentation. The researchers conducted correlation analyses to determine the impact of crocins on the antioxidant activity of these food products. The findings revealed that the presence of crocins significantly increased the antioxidant activity in all three food matrices, with no observed toxicity. This aligns with previous research highlighting the health benefits of natural pigments like carotenoids, which are known for their antioxidant properties and positive impact on human health[3]. Furthermore, the study examined the bioaccessibility of crocins during in vitro digestion. Bioaccessibility refers to the extent to which a compound is released from the food matrix and becomes available for absorption in the digestive tract. The results showed that crocins were more bioaccessible from rice compared to cous-cous or maize noodles, indicating that the food matrix plays a crucial role in the bioavailability of these compounds. This finding is particularly important as it underscores the need to consider the food matrix when developing functional foods to maximize the health benefits of natural pigments. The study's results highlight the commercial potential of using Verbascum flowers as a source of crocins in the food industry. These natural pigments not only offer vibrant yellow coloration but also enhance the antioxidant properties of food products, contributing to their functional benefits. The use of natural colorants like crocins aligns with the increasing consumer demand for healthier and more natural food options[2]. In summary, the research conducted by the Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha demonstrates the feasibility of using crocin-rich ingredients from Verbascum species and genetically engineered tomatoes in food products. By providing yellow pigmentation and enhancing antioxidant activity, these natural colorants offer a promising alternative to synthetic dyes. Additionally, the study highlights the importance of considering the food matrix to optimize the bioaccessibility and health benefits of natural pigments. This research paves the way for the development of new, stable, and functional natural colorants in the food industry, addressing both consumer preferences and health considerations.

HealthBiochemPlant Science


Main Study

1) Evaluation of Verbascum flower extracts as a natural source of pigments with potential health benefits.

Published 13th May, 2024


Related Studies

2) The Colors of Health: Chemistry, Bioactivity, and Market Demand for Colorful Foods and Natural Food Sources of Colorants.


3) A global perspective on carotenoids: Metabolism, biotechnology, and benefits for nutrition and health.


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