The American Botanical Council (ABC) welcomes the adoptions of fig (Ficus carica, Moraceae) by Euromed, a Mollet del Vallès, Spain-based phytomedicine company, and saffron (Crocus sativus, Iridaceae) by Pharmactive Biotech Products, a Madrid, Spain-based manufacturer of standardized natural ingredients, through ABC’s Adopt-an-Herb botanical research and education program.
These adoptions support ABC’s extensive HerbMedPro database, ensuring that this unique research and educational resource remains up to date for researchers, health professionals, industry members, students, consumers, and other members of the herbal and dietary supplement and natural medicine communities.
HerbMedPro is a comprehensive, interactive online database that provides access to important scientific and clinical research data on the uses and health effects of more than 265 herbs, spices, medicinal plants, and fungi.
Euromed Adopts Fig
“Euromed is a longtime supporter of ABC initiatives,” said Andrea Zangara, Euromed’s head of scientific communication and marketing. “Fig is our second adoption through the Adopt-an-Herb program, with milk thistle [Silybum marianum, Asteraceae] being the first. Euromed recognizes the essential role ABC plays in educating health professionals, natural product industry stakeholders, and consumers about the health benefits of herbal supplements.
“Euromed is committed to expanding the body of safety and efficacy studies on botanical products and relies on organizations like ABC to disseminate this information,” Zangara added. “The fig adoption fits perfectly with our mission to develop, innovate, and supply high-quality, traceable, sustainable, and evidence-based botanical ingredients for a healthier world.”
Mark Blumenthal, ABC’s founder and executive director, said: “ABC truly appreciates Euromed’s adoption of fig on ABC’s highly useful HerbMedPro database. Not only is fig a widely popular food in many parts of the world (it’s one of my favorites!), it also has health benefits. Euromed’s fig adoption will allow ABC to stay current on the scientific and medical research on fig, confirming the proposition that food is medicine.”
The Ficus genus belongs to the mulberry family (Moraceae) and includes about 800 species or more, making it one of the largest genera of flowering plants. Of these species, F. carica is the most important as a human food source. The fruit is botanically classified as a syconium, a fleshy receptacle with many tiny flowers. Native to western Asia and the Mediterranean, F. carica is a fast-growing temperate deciduous shrub or small tree that can grow to 30 feet tall. It is noted for its spreading habit and attractive foliage.
Ficus carica may have been the first domesticated fruit crop. Fig remains from about 11,400 years ago were found at Gilgal I, a village near Jericho in Israel. About 5,000 years ago, the Sumerian King Urukagina reportedly wrote about fig. Excavations of the Uluburun shipwreck, a Late Bronze Age shipwreck discovered in 1982 off the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, yielded fig remains among the cargo. The ancient Greeks reportedly received figs from Caria in Anatolia, hence the species name carica. In the Bible, in Song of Songs, King Solomon praised figs. And, according to some historical accounts, King Nebuchadnezzar II planted figs in the hanging gardens of Babylon about 2,500 years ago.
Each Ficus species depends on its own fig wasp species for pollination. These tiny wasps can lay eggs only in the flowers of their partner figs, and the figs can be pollinated only by their wasps. Any wasps that do not exit the figs are broken down by enzymes as the figs ripen. Some species of Ficus produce fruits year-round, which sustains their wasp pollinators. This also benefits animals that may otherwise struggle to find food for much of the year. Ficus fruits are eaten by more than 1,200 animal species, which disperse the seeds and the seeds of other plants. Ecologists have thus called figs “keystone resources.”
Figs are dense in nutrients and a good source of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, other sugars, organic acids, fiber, polyphenols, and the phytochemical abscisic acid (ABA). Yet, in the American diet, figs reportedly account for less than 1% of total fruit consumed annually. One promising health application of ABA is its apparent ability to stimulate cellular uptake of blood sugar, Zangara said. This may be why a sweet fruit like fig seems to have better glycemic responses than refined sugars. In vivo and in vitro studies suggest that fig fruits, stems, leaves, and latex have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, and antitumor effects. In human clinical trials, figs have shown efficacy for treating atopic dermatitis, constipation, and warts.
Euromed was founded in 1971 by the German pharmaceutical group Madaus to ensure vertical integration and superior quality for its leading phytomedicine, a standardized milk thistle extract, and other phytomedicines. Recently, Euromed launched a new product line of fruit and vegetable extracts, including fig, inspired by the documented health benefits of the Mediterranean diet.
According to Zangara, F. carica grows naturally throughout Spain, and its dry fruits have one of the highest concentrations of ABA found in nature. The Spanish figs in Euromed’s supply chain are farmed sustainably and sourced locally, which reduces transportation and the company’s carbon footprint. Euromed has developed an osmotized water-only extraction technology (Pure-Hydro Process™), which preserves naturally occurring compounds, including ABA, while avoiding residues of organic solvents and minimizing environmental impact.
Many Americans do not consume adequate fruits and vegetables and may therefore have deficient ABA levels, Zangara noted. Euromed claims that its fig extract ABAlife® delivers the scientifically documented health benefits of ABA while avoiding additional calories associated with eating figs. In one published clinical trial with Euromed’s proprietary Spanish fig fruit extract, healthy participants experienced beneficial modulation of postprandial glycemic responses.
Pharmactive Adopts Saffron
“Pharmactive is more than pleased to adopt one of the most fascinating and valued plants in the world,” said Pharmactive Founder and CEO Jean-Marie Raymond. “Saffron is helping millions of people around the world maintain a positive mood, manage anxiety, and get restorative sleep every day. The excellent safety profile of saffron makes it perfect for different stages of life, including the elderly and adolescents.”
Blumenthal said: “ABC is deeply grateful to our friends at Pharmactive for adopting saffron on ABC’s powerful HerbMedPro database. Saffron is a traditional spice, often considered the most expensive in the world. The past decade has witnessed a virtual explosion of scientific and clinical research on the effects of saffron extracts on the human central nervous system, including its positive effects for people with mild-to-moderate depression. In fact, the emerging saffron research is so impressive that ABC published a review of the clinical literature in HerbalGram issue 110.”
Saffron is an autumn-flowering perennial. The main part of the plant used medicinally is the dried stigma. With only three stigmas per plant, saffron is among the most expensive spices in the world, which makes economically motivated adulteration common. It is used as a food additive due to its aroma, color, and bitter taste, as well as in various systems of traditional medicine. It has not been reported in the wild and probably descends from wild saffron (C. cartwrightianus). The Crocus genus includes 85 known species, but C. sativus is favored for its medicinal properties.
Saffron’s stigmas contain volatile and non-volatile compounds, including terpenes and their esters and carotenoids, all of which are responsible for saffron’s color and taste. The petals, which are used less often in medicinal preparations, contain glycosides of the flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol. Saffron has been used in the traditional medical practices of Egypt, Greece, India, and Persia, where it was used for respiratory disorders, menstrual disorders, painful urination, and mood disorders.
Modern applications of saffron focus largely on cognitive function and mood support, and some human clinical trials have compared the effects of saffron preparations to leading conventional pharmaceutical drugs used for Alzheimer’s disease and mild-to-moderate depression. Other promising areas of research for saffron extracts focus on its anti-inflammatory actions for reproductive health, glaucoma and macular degeneration, and weight loss and exercise.
Pharmactive Biotech Products, SL, is a privately owned company that develops and manufactures standardized natural ingredients that are supported by scientific evidence. The company prides itself on having high standards and dedicated research and development investment. Pharmactive states that it is the first company to introduce a standardized saffron extract for mood management. Pharmactive partners internationally with universities and research organizations to boost its research and development capabilities and generate new opportunities for its customers.
Because of saffron’s demand and limited supply, Pharmactive takes active steps to ensure its customers receive an unadulterated product. Raymond noted: “The quality of the raw material and the extraction process are the keys to preserving the beneficial properties, and full control is the key to avoiding adulteration.” Pharmactive traces its extracts from field crops to in-house production.
About Adopt-an-Herb and HerbMedPro
Euromed and Pharmactive are among the 65 US and international companies and organizations that have supported ABC’s educational efforts to collect, organize, and disseminate reliable traditional and science-based information, including clinical studies, on herbs, medicinal plants, and other botanical- and fungal-based ingredients through the Adopt-an-Herb program. This program encourages companies, organizations, and individuals to “adopt” one or more specific herbs for inclusion and ongoing maintenance in the HerbMedPro database. To date, 73 herbs have been adopted.
Each adopted herb is researched continuously for new scientific articles and botanical, chemical, pharmacological, toxicological, and clinical studies, ensuring that its HerbMedPro record stays current and robust. Access to the studies is organized conveniently by publication type, with each study condensed to a one-sentence summary with a link to the study’s official abstract on PubMed (the US National Library of Medicine’s free-access database) or other publicly accessible databases.
HerbMedPro is available to ABC members at the Academic level and higher. Its “sister” site, HerbMed, is available to the general public at no cost, with access to 25-30 herb records from the larger HerbMedPro database. In keeping with ABC’s position as an independent research and education organization, herb adopters do not influence the scientific information that is compiled for their respective adopted herbs.