While spinach is an established nutritionally important crop, its medicinal value is not as well known. Spinach is rich in ecdysteroids, insect hormone analogs with a number of medicinal properties including anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory and even anabolic activity. However, the potential of spinach as a medicinal plant has not yet been developed. In this study, the ecdysteroid content of spinach was optimized to increase its therapeutic value. Spinach seeds from various sources were grown under controlled hydroponic conditions and analyzed for ecdysteroid content and related anabolic activity. Variations in ecdysteroid content and the related anabolic activity were observed among spinach accessions. A selected variety, Spinacia oleracea cv. Turkey, was exposed to various physical and chemical elicitors to increase and stabilize ecdysteroid content. A number of elicitors, including methyl salicylate and mechanical damage, significantly increased ecdysteroid content and anabolic activity 24 h after exposure. The effect was transient and disappeared 48 h thereafter. Further work is needed to identify the most suitable germplasm and elicitation conditions for optimal ecdysteroid content.
Keywords: anabolic activity; ecdysteroid; elicitation; protein synthesis; spinach.