Researchers have proven heather to be effective herbal medicinal raw material. This small relict, evergreen shrub is a widespread plant in Europe and has long been used as a medicine for the treatment of rheumatism, arthritis, as well as an antiseptic, choleretic, wound healing, expectorant.
A wide range of medicinal properties of heather is determined by the diversity and high content of biologically active substances in the plant, primarily phenolic compounds, which perform many different functions, for example, they are involved in photosynthesis and plant breathing process.
Heather is not included in the list of medicinal products. However, according to the scientists, this plant is a source of valuable biologically active substances with cardioprotective, neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, antitumor, and antiviral effects.
To prove this, the staff and students of the Institute of Living Systems, Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University have been collecting common heather from May to October 2019 at four stages (beginning of vegetation, budding, flowering, and fruiting) in the Pig Swamp on the Curonian Spit. Scientists have determined the content of biologically active compounds in the leaves, stems, roots, rhizomes, flowers, and seeds, as well as the antioxidant and antibacterial activity of the extracts against the bacteria of E. coli and hay bacillus.
Lyubov Skrypnik, Ph.D. in Biology, Associate Professor at the Institute of Living Systems said: “The phytochemical composition of heather is well studied. However, there was no research on the seasonal dynamics of the quantitative content of flavonoids, tannins, anthocyanins, proanthocyanins, hydroxycinnamic acids. In addition, earlier most of the studies were devoted to the study of the aboveground part of the heather, but in our work, we proved that phenolic compounds are actively accumulating in underground organs – the roots and rhizomes of the plant.
“Typically, heather is harvested for medicinal purposes during the flowering stage. But in the course of the study, we found that the maximum amount of flavonoids, which are of the greatest medicinal value, accumulates in all organs of the heather during the budding phase. This leads to a recommendation for harvesting heather plants just before flowering.” added Lyubov.
“Additionally, it was found that the budding stage is the only stage at which the antibacterial activity of the extracts of all the studied parts of the plant was found simultaneously, and the leaves and stems showed an antibacterial effect against bacteria of E. coli and hay bacillus”.
The results of the research were published in the “Plants” scientific journal. The research was conducted by IKBFU Institute of Living Systems students Viktoriya Chepel and Valeriy Lisun, under prof. Lyubov Skrypnik.