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Leafy Medicinal Herbs: Botany, Chemistry, Postharvest Technology and Uses

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Medicinal herbs are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and are able to synthesize secondary metabolites with disease preventive properties. It is due to these qualities that herbs have been used throughout history for flavouring and in food, medicine and perfumery preparations. They are also often considered to be safe alternatives to modern medicines because of their healing properties. Though interest in medicinal and aromatic crops is growing worldwide, there is still little focus on the area of leafy medicinal herbs.ÊThis book compiles the literature for 23 globally relevant leafy medicinal herbs. Beginning with a general overview and discussion of the importance of these plants, it then handles each herb by chapter. Chapters discuss the botany of the crop, including its history and origin, geographical distribution and morphology, before focusing on the chemical composition and phytochemical attributes. They then review postharvest technology aspects such as processing and value addition, before concluding with the general and pharmacological uses for each crop. A complete compilation of the subject, this book forms a vital resource for researchers, students, farmers and industrialists in the area of leafy medicinal herbs.

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23 Chapters

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1: Aloe Vera



Aloe Vera

Ravindra Naik1*, J.S. Rutra Priya1 and R. Arul Mari2

ICAR – Central Institute of Agricultural Engineering, Regional Centre,

Coimbatore, India; 2Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, India


1.1  Botany

1.1.1  Introduction

Aloe vera (Aloe vera (L.) Burm.f., syn. A. barbadensis Mill.), a traditional medicinal plant, is used in the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. The word ‘aloe’ has its roots in the Arabic word ‘alloeh’, which means

‘radiance’. The innermost part of the leaf is a clear, soft, moist and slippery tissue that consists of large thin-walled parenchyma cells in which water is held in the form of viscous mucilage (Newton, 2004; Naik and Annamalai, 2013). Therefore, the thick fleshy leaves of aloe plants contain not only cell wall carbohydrates such as cellulose and hemicellulose, but also storage carbohydrates such as acetylated mannans (Ni et al., 2004).

Aloe vera is an industrial crop and in the food industry it has been utilized for the preparation of health food drinks, beverages such as tea and milk, and ice cream and confectionery. The gel from aloe vera also finds application in the cosmetic and toiletries industry for the preparation of creams, lotions, soaps, shampoos and facial cleansers.


2: Ashwagandha


2 Ashwagandha


Paramadhas Sudha1* and Alagirisamy Reni2

Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Chettinad, India;


Avinashilingam University, Coimbatore, India

2.1  Botany

2.1.1  Introduction

Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal, or ashwagandha, is an erect, evergreen, perennial shrub and member of the Solanaceae family.

In Ayurvedic and indigenous medicine, it has been considered to be a medicinal plant for over 3000 years. The genera Withania and Physalis have played an important role in the traditional Unani medicine system of

South-­east Asia. Ashwagandha is believed to be an aphrodisiac and to have rejuvenating properties that are useful for the treatment of inflammatory conditions and as an antitumour agent.

Apart from ashwagandha, common names of the plant include withania, winter cherry, Indian winter cherry and Indian ginseng. It also has many vernacular names in different languages (see Table 2.1). The roots and leaves are the parts of ashwagandha that are used for medicinal purposes. The plant is cultivated mainly in the drier parts of India.


3: Basil


3 Basil

Darach Lupton,1 Muhammad Mumtaz Khan,2 Rashid Abdullah

Al-Yahyai2* and Muhammad Asif Hanif3


Oman Botanic Garden, Muscat, Oman; 2Sultan Qaboos University,

Muscat, Oman; 3University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan

3.1  Botany

3.1.1  Introduction

Basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) is an annual herb belonging to the mint family (Lamiaceae).

It has been utilized for millennia and is an essential ingredient in many cooking traditions and practices (Agarwal et al., 2013).

The genus Ocimum contains a range of some

50 to 150 species and varieties that are native to the tropical regions of Asia and Central and South Africa (Ghosh, 1995). The uncertainty in the exact number of species within the genus is largely attributed to the enormous variation that is found among the constituent species. The variability is prevalent in the morphology, growth habit, flower colour, leaves, stems and chemical composition

(Svecova and Neugebauerova, 2010). Basil cross-­ pollinates readily, and the resulting diversity and variation has led some authors to reclassify sections of the genus (Paton, 1992).


4: Bay




Hülya Çakmak,* Seher Kumcuoglu and S¸ebnem Tavman

Ege University, Bornova, Izmir, Turkey

4.1  Botany

4.1.1  Introduction

The bay, Laurus nobilis L., is indigenous to

Asia Minor and the Mediterranean basin, and its dried aromatic leaves are used as a culinary herb. The plant is also used medicinally, especially in traditional folk medicine.

Cultivated bay plants are pruned to different topiary shapes and used as ornamental plants in temperate zones. The species is categorized as a non-timber (secondary) forest product.

L. nobilis is a perennial, evergreen tree or shrub and is known as sweet bay, true bay, bay laurel, Turkish laurel, Roman laurel, sweet laurel or true laurel (Kumar et al., 2001;

Charles, 2013; FAO, 2014). Common names of bay in other languages are: ghar (Arabic), yueh kuei (Chinese), feuille de laurier (French),

Lorbeerblatt (German), daphni (Greek), foglia di alloro (Italian), gekkeiju (Japanese), louro


5: Betel Vine



Betel Vine

S. Jacob K. Annamalai, S. Reetha Subashini, J.S. Rutra Priya and Ravindra Naik*

ICAR – Central Institute of Agricultural Engineering,

Regional Centre, Coimbatore, India

5.1  Botany

5.1.1  Introduction

The betel vine plant is reported to have originated from South and South-east Asia. Its scientific name is Piper betle L. It belongs to the family Piperaceae, the black pepper family. The names of betel vine in local (Indian) languages are vetrilai in Tamil, tambula in

Sanskrit, vettilakkotti in Malayalam, villaya in Kannada, tamalapaku in Telugu, vedech-­ pan in Marathi, nagerbel in Gujrati and pan in Hindi and Bangala. In other (foreign) languages, it is called tanbol in Arabic and burg-e-­ tanbol in Persian. [There are variations on many of these spellings.] Betel leaves are a special item that is offered to guests in order to show respect and they are traditionally used in Indian society. A well-­prepared betel quid (a combination of betel leaf, areca nut and slaked lime, which may also contain tobacco) is regarded as an excellent mouth freshener and mild vitalizer, and is regularly served on social, cultural and religious occasions such as marriage, puja (a religious festival) and the religious function performed after cremation (Mehrotra, 1981; Guha, 1997).


6: Celery


6 Celery

Svein Øivind Solberg*

Nordic Genetic Resource Center, Alnarp, Sweden

6.1  Botany

Cultivated celery can be divided into three subtypes:

6.1.1  Introduction

Celery (Apium graveolens L.) is an important vegetable but also a spice and medicinal plant (Fig. 6.1). All parts of the plant are used. The crop is grown in all continents, with the largest production in the USA, Europe, China and India. The common name in

English is celery; in French it is céleri, in

Italian seleri, in Hindi ajavaina, in Urdu kharasanior ajwain and in Chinese qíncài.


Celery belongs to the Apiaceae family and to the genus Apium, which contains around

30 species. The wild form of celery grows on the coastlines of Europe, West Asia and North

Africa. The global database GBIF (2014) reports more than 7000 georeferenced records, most of them from Europe (from Sweden in the north to Spain, Italy and Greece in the south). Records from Southern Africa, from


7: Centella





Terrence Madhujith1* and Subajiny Sivakanthan2

University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka; 2University of Jaffna, Sri Lanka

7.1  Botany

7.1.1  Introduction


Centella asiatica (L.) Urban (or Centella asiatica (L.) Urb.), a tropical plant belonging to the family Apiaceae (Umbelliferae), is commonly known as ‘gotu kola’, Asiatic pennywort, Indian pennywort, Indian water navelwort, wild violet, tiger herb and spadeleaf, and also just as Centella or ‘centella’ (Yu et al., 2006; James and Dubery, 2009; Orhan,

2012). Its taxonomic hierarchy is as follows:

Kingdom: Plantae

Division: Tracheophyta

Subdivision: Spermatophytina

Class: Magnoliopsida

Order: Apiales

Family: Apiaceae

Genus: Centella

Species: asiatica

The species is an ancient medicinal herb used in Ayurvedic medicine in India and in herbal medicine in Malaysia and China, and some other Asian countries. Moreover, it has been used in folk and alternative medicines for


8: Chester


8 Chester

A.F. Alonge*

University of Uyo, Uyo, Nigeria

8.1  Botany

8.1.1  Introduction

The term ‘vegetable’ is not attributed to green leaves alone but also to the flowers and young seeds of some plants and even to the roots of herbaceous plants that are edible (i.e. not poisonous or toxic to the body).

A vegetable is a plant whose fruits, shoots, stems, leaves and roots or other parts are used for food. They vary in function, i.e. in some cases the leaves serve as food or medicine while in others the stems, young roots and seeds may also serve similar or some other functions. Traditionally, the people of south-eastern Nigeria and other West African countries utilize chester plants (Heinsia crinita) for both food and therapeutic purposes (Fig. 8.1).

very conspicuous leafy calyx lobes, producing yellow or reddish fruits and sweet, acidic fruits which are edible.

8.1.3  Location

Chester is usually found sparsely distributed in tropical rain forest. The shrubs are most common in West Africa, mostly in Nigeria and might also be found in African countries such as Ghana, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire,


9: Coriander




Maripillai Munusamy Pragalyaashree* and Venkatachalam Thirupathi

Agricultural Engineering College and Research Institute (AEC & RI), Tamil Nadu

Agricultural University, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, India

Plants have been a rich source of medicines because they produce a host of bioactive molecules, most of which probably evolved as chemical defences against predation or infection.

(Cox and Balick, 1994, p. 82)

9.1  Botany

9.1.1  Introduction

Coriander (Coriandrum sativum), is a delicate culinary and medicinal branched herb belonging to the Apiaceae family (Fig. 9.1).

The name ‘coriander’ was derived from the

French coriandre, which comes from the

Latin coriandrum. It is thought to have been derived from the Greek word ‘Koris’, which means ‘bug’, which is believed to have been used because the seeds apparently smell like bed bugs. It is known by several other names, including cilantro (in North America), cilantrillo, Arab parsley, Chinese parsley, Mexican parsley, Dhanya and Yuen sai, and Pak Chee. Cilantro is the Spanish word for coriander leaves, and these are much used in Mexican cuisine in North America.


10: Curry Leaf Plant



Curry Leaf Plant

Dawn C.P. Ambrose*

ICAR – Central Institute of Agricultural Engineering,

Regional Centre, Coimbatore, India

10.1  Botany

10.1.1  Introduction

Indian cuisine is characterized by flavouring with many spices that also have medicinal properties. One of the leafy medicinal crops used as a spice is the curry leaf plant.

Its botanical name is Murraya koenigii

Spreng. and it belongs to the family Rutaceae. The leaves are widely used as a flavouring in the recipes of southern India, where the herb is grown as a homestead garden crop (Charles, 2013). Curry leaves are also widely used for food flavouring in Sri

Lanka. They have a stimulatory effect on the tongue and a peculiar aroma. Curry leaves are used in a manner similar to bay leaf in culinary preparations. Apart from their use in food preparations, the leaves have many health benefits, and in India they are one of the ingredients of Ayurvedic formulations. The leaves taste pungent, bitter and lightly acidic, and they retain their flavour and other qualities even after drying


11: Fenugreek


11 Fenugreek

Gopal Amuthaselvi1* and Dawn C.P. Ambrose2

Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Sirugamani, Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu, India;


ICAR – Central Institute of Agricultural Engineering,

Regional Centre, Coimbatore, India


11.1  Botany

(or methe). Details of its various names in different languages are given in Table 11.1.

The leaves and seeds are consumed for

11.1.1  Introduction culinary purposes across the globe. The dried leaves add flavour to dishes. The seeds,

Fenugreek belongs to the family Fabaceae. after drying, are powdered and used in the

Its botanical name is Trigonella foenum-­ preparation of curry in Asian countries; graecum. The leaves of the plant are used as they are also used in bakery products and in a herb and the seeds as a spice. It is culticheese, and as an insect repellent during the vated worldwide as a semi-arid crop. Fenustorage of grain. The fresh leaves, as well as greek is an age-old medicinal herb that is sprouted seeds, are used in salads. The crop used in many parts of the world (Srinivasan, is of short duration and helps in fixing


12: Lemongrass




Salome Amarachi Chime* and Ikechukwu V. Onyishi

University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria

12.1  Botany

12.1.1  Introduction

Lemongrass is a herb belonging to the grass family Poaceae. It is grown in South-east Asia and Sri Lanka. The herb is used in Asian cuisine and has a lemony flavour. In India, it is known as ‘choomana poolu’ and is used in Ayurvedic medicine and as an ingredient in the perfumery industry. Cymbopogon flexuosus Stapf originated from Kerala, is very hardy and grows in humid climatic condition requiring plenty of sunlight. The species

C. citratus is believed to be a native of Malaysia. In English, the herb is commonly known as lemongrass, citronella grass or fever grass.

In other languages and designations, it is called

Herba Andropogonis (a pharmaceutical designation), hashisha al-limun (Arabic), limonova treva (Bulgarian), sabalin (Burmese), chou geung (Cantonese), vlaska (Croatian), citroengras (Dutch), citronelo (Esperanto), verveine des Indes (French), herba de limón (Galician), zitronengras (German), essef limon (Hebrew), sera (Hindi), cimbopogone (Italian), remon-­ gurasu (Korean), erva-principe (Portuguese),


13: Mint


13 Mint

Maria do Carmo Ferreira* and Aline de Holanda Rosanova

Federal University of São Carlos, São Carlos, São Paulo, Brazil

13.1  Botany

13.1.1  Introduction

The Lamiaceae or mint family is one of the most diverse and widespread dicotyledonous plant families. Several species in this family have external glandular structures that produce volatile oil and are highly aromatic

­(Giuliani and Maleci Bini, 2008). The family includes about 236 genera and 6900–7200 species, including many culinary herbs, such as mint, basil, rosemary, marjoram and thyme

(Venkateshappa and Sreenath, 2013). The genus Mentha is considered to be the most important in this family because its essential oil has a high economic value and is used in several different industrial sectors, such as food, flavouring, fragrances, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Mint species have been traditionally used in natural (or complementary) medicine and ethnomedicine against a wide variety of diseases. They are also used for culinary purposes, owing to the pleasant and aromatic flavour of their leaves (Andrews,


14: Moringa


14 Moringa

Anthonia O. Oluduro,1* Dawn C.P. Ambrose,2 Aregbesola

Oladipupo Abiodun1 and Alice L. Daunty3


Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria; 2ICAR – Central Institute of Agricultural Engineering, Regional Centre, Coimbatore, India;


Mcrennet Foods, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

14.1  Botany

14.1.1  Introduction

Moringa oleifera, also commonly called moringa or drumstick, is a cultivated tree crop belonging to the family, Moringaceae. It is known as the ‘miracle tree’ due to its various medicinal benefits. The name of the genus comes from ‘murunggi’ or ‘muringa’ in the

Tamil and Malayalam languages. Other common names by which the tree is known are the horseradish tree and the ben oil tree. The tree is widely found in Asian countries such as India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, and also in South America and African continent.

In India, it is cultivated widely in the southern states and is drought resistant and rapid growing.


15: Oregano





K. Hüsnü Can Bas¸er1,2* and Ne¸set Arslan3

Anadolu University, Eskis¸ehir, Turkey; 2Near East University, Nicosia,

N. Cyprus; 3Ankara University, Ankara, Turkey

15.1  Botany

15.1.1  Introduction

The family Lamiaceae is composed of annual or perennial plants that are herbs or shrubs and are distributed mainly in the northern hemisphere and especially in the

Mediterranean region. Their stems are generally square in cross section. The botanical description is as follows: Leaves simple or lobed, opposite, each pair at right angles to the previous one (decussate). Flowers bisexual and zygomorphic, emerging from the bottom of bracts, in dense clusters and verticillastrate. Bracts similar to leaves. Calyx 5 toothed, campanulate or tubular. Corolla tubular at base, bilabiate above. Upper lip 2, lower lip 3 toothed. Stamen 4, 2 fertile and

2 sterile; 2 with long and 2 with short filaments. Ovary superior, 2-celled and each cell 2-ovuled, style subterminal or ovary


16: Parsley




Ghazi Daradkeh1,2 and Musthafa Mohamed Essa1*

Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman; 2Hamad Medical

Corporation, Doha, Qatar


16.1  Botany

16.1.1  Introduction

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is a herb belonging to the Apiaceae (formerly Umbelliferae) family (Fig. 16.1). It is native to the Mediterranean region where it is found in the wild form. It is mostly grown outdoors and is seasonally harvested (Navazio, 2012). Parsley is a leafy vegetable, rich in many biologically active compounds, and its name (Petroselinum) is derived from the Greek for ‘rock celery’; it can be distinguished from other leafy green herbs by its unique aroma. In sunny areas with suitable environmental conditions – in a humid soil with a pH of 5.3–7.3 – parsley may grow up to 60–120 cm tall (Navazio, 2012).

Parsley is sensitive to water stress, especially if it is planted in the summer and at the end of spring, and to increase production and improve quality, a permanent source of water should be provided. Both growth stage and parsley type determine the susceptibility of the plants to water stress (Petropoulos et al.,


17: Patchouli




H.G. Ramya*

Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, India

17.1  Botany

17.1.1  Introduction

Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) is a small bushy perennial herb (see Fig. 17.1), which has odorous leaves and has been acclaimed as a valuable aromatic plant. The oil obtained from patchouli is a chief constituent in several perfumes as it imparts a rich scent. Raw patchouli oil itself can be used as an alternative for exotic perfumes. The oil also has good properties for use in perfuming soaps

(Vijaykumar, 2004).

The herb is mainly grown for its essential oil, which can be obtained from the leaves, and also, in very small quantities, from the tender part of its stem. The oil is extracted from dried leaves of patchouli by the steam distillation technique. About 2.5–3.5% of high-quality oil with significant economic value can be obtained from shade dried patchouli leaves.

Popular cultivated patchouli varieties include cv ‘Java’ and ‘Singapore’ (named after their country of origin), from which distinctive quality oil of specified chemical composition and odorific value can be obtained. In contrast, the oils from cv ‘Johore’


18: Rosemary




Milda E. Embuscado*

McCormick & Company, Hunt Valley, Maryland, USA

18.1  Botany

18.1.1  Introduction

Rosemary, scientific name Rosmarinus officinalis L., belongs to the mint family

(Lamiaceae) together with oregano, thyme, basil and lavender. It is one of the most important herbs used for culinary purposes, as well as being used in alternative and herbal medicine. Rosemary is a fragrant woody plant that is native to the Mediterranean region and is an essential element of the Mediterranean diet, along with many other spices and herbs. Rosemary leaves are used as a culinary condiment that provides excellent flavour for meats such as chicken, beef, lamb and fish. The leaves are also used as teas and extracts are used in beverages or as flavourings.

The name rosemary was derived from the Latin words ros meaning dew and marinus meaning sea, thus ‘dew of the sea’. The plant is a perennial evergreen shrub with minty needle-like leaves that measure 0.8–1.6 in (2–3 cm) and it grows well in sandy soil or on dry and rocky slopes near the sea in full sun – which is probably the reason why it is called ‘dew of the sea’. Rosemary has pretty pink, white, blue or purple flowers


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