Ayurvedic medicine – a type of alternative medicine native to India – relies on the use of plant-based treatments for healing. The value of herbs in such traditional medicines is based on the presence of natural bioactive molecules known as phytochemicals. Although the benefits for many phytochemicals have been clearly demonstrated, Ayurveda-based medications have lagged behind from becoming an accepted medical system. To address this issue and also exploit the potential utilisation of such compounds in food and personal care industries, the ‘Colloidal delivery systems for phytochemicals; Ayurveda’ (Ayurveda) project was established with the help of EU funding. Scientists addressed the issue of phytochemical delivery and stability by developing novel formulations using biopolymers as carrier materials. Well known phytochemicals like quercetin were formulated as colloidal particles, using biopolymers like shellac (resin) and zein (hydrophobic protein), and as carrier materials. Formulation of these compounds in colloid suspension resulted in enhanced properties such as water solubility, pH and light stability and most importantly with added functionalities such as controlled release. Colloidal interaction of phytochemicals like the green tea polyphenol epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) with polymers resulted in the formation of novel microstructures useful for the delivery of actives and flavours. Colloidal particles were also generated by the molecular interaction of three phytochemicals leading to a lipid lowering potential. Ayurveda results demonstrated that the principles of colloid science could be successfully applied to fabricate delivery systems based on the specific interactions of various phytochemicals with carrier materials. These molecular interactions could be effectively exploited to introduce Ayurveda phytochemicals in the food and pharmaceutical industries.
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