New Insights on Primary and Secondary Metabolite Contents of Seven Italian Wild Food Plants with Medicinal Applications: A Comparative Study

Plants (Basel). 2023 Sep 5;12(18):3180. doi: 10.3390/plants12183180.


Wild food plants are widely consumed all over the world and many have both nutritional and therapeutic value due to the presence of biologically active compounds. The present research, for the first time, aims to compare primary and secondary metabolite levels among different plant organs (flower, leaf, stem, root, bark) of seven species (Borago officinalis L., Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers., Foeniculum vulgare Mill., Hypericum perforatum L., Malva sylvestris L., Sambucus nigra L., Urtica dioica L.) collected in three different Italian regions (Liguria, Tuscany, Apulia). Plant organ samples were extracted with water or 95% (v/v) methanol and liquid fractions were analyzed using spectrophotometric assays. The best results were obtained for Hypericum perforatum L. samples, followed by Sambucus nigra L. and Borago officinalis L. As also confirmed via PCA analysis on normalized data, flower and leaf extracts of all species exhibited higher levels of polyphenols (up to 105.7 mg GA eq/gDW), reducing sugars (up to 389.2 mg GLUC eq/gDW), proteins (up to 675.7 mg BSA eq/gDW) and of antioxidant capacity (up to 263.5 mg AA eq/gDW). No differences among the regions of gathering were detected after spectrophotometric assays, which was confirmed via PCA analysis. These data contribute to further validate the traditionally reported healing effects of these species on human health.

Keywords: antioxidant activity; medicinal plants; polyphenols; wild food plants.

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.