Public Release: 

Plant chemicals benefit both health and home

American Chemical Society

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BOSTON -- Plants have supplied the basis for natural remedies throughout much of human history. Today scientists are finding innovative ways to use plant-derived chemicals to improve our lives: from boosting our immune systems to safely killing persistent pests. At the 224th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society, the Division of Agricultural and Food Chemistry will host a number of presentations about natural chemicals. A few of the highlights are described below:

  • Health benefits of aromatherapy: Kwang-Geun Lee, Ph.D., of the University of California, has found that aromatherapy compounds can have important health benefits beyond their soothing scents. Three aroma chemicals from a variety of plant sources showed antioxidant activity comparable to that of vitamin E. Because they transfer quickly into the body, aroma chemicals have a number of possible medical applications. One option is using them in a room where people are smoking to inhibit the formation of toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke. (This paper, AGFD 5, will be presented at 10:35 a.m., Sunday, Aug. 18, at Marriott Copley Place, Salon E.)

  • Natural alternatives to termiticides: Feng Chen, Ph.D., of Clemson University, is developing natural agents to repel or kill termites without the environmental and health concerns typically associated with termiticides. He has found two promising alternatives in essential oils extracted from clove bud and vetiver grass -- a tropical plant commonly used to prevent soil erosion. Vetiver oil proved to be the most effective at repelling termites, while clove bud showed the best ability to kill them: all of the termites tested were dead within two days of the addition of trace amounts of clove bud oil. (This paper, AGFD 107, will be presented at 8 p.m., Monday, Aug. 19, at the Convention Center, Hall B.)

  • Vegetable oils that reduce cholesterol: Balasulojini Karunanandaa, Ph.D., and a team of scientists at Monsanto Company are developing new vegetable oils that could help people lower their cholesterol. They have engineered canola and soybean seeds with an enzyme that produces higher levels of phytosterols and phytostanols -- plant chemicals that have demonstrated cholesterol-reducing properties. Producing a marketable soybean oil with the new modifications is the focus of their research because of the many other health benefits of soy. (This paper, AGFD 175, will be presented at 10:05 a.m., Thursday, Aug. 22, at Marriott Copley Place, Salon C.)

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