[Kim Su-dong's Science Story] Nature’s Gift Phytoncides and Herb Plants
[Kim Su-dong's Science Story] Nature’s Gift Phytoncides and Herb Plants
  • By Kim Soo-dong (sdkim1004@naver.com)
  • 승인 2015.01.19 18:15
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Phytoncides, the airborne chemicals that plants emit, come as a cure to us. Phytoncides have been widely used, from soap, skin softeners and essential serums, to shampoo, lotion and toothpaste. Since the word phytoncide itself carries so many positive connotations, products laced with phytoncides come across as healthy ones. Phytoncides, a combination of two words “plant” in Latin, and “cide” (the natural compound that a plant emits to kill microorganisms) were first coined in 1937 by Dr. Boris P. Tokin.

In the early 1980s, phytoncides were introduced to Korea when the book Forest Bathing, written by then head of Forestry Agency of Japan, was translated into Korea. Since then, inhaling phytoncides has been known to reduce stress hormones and blood pressure and boost immunity. Since the 2000s, a growing interest in atopic dermatitis has given rise to a wide range of phytoncides products.

At the beginning, SH Pharmaceuticals led the production of phytoncides products in the nation and later JW Pharmaceuticals followed suit. Since studies on the effects of phytoncides were mainly carried out in Japan, the Japanese cypress (or retinispora) was known as one of the largest phytoncides producers. Phytoncides include roughly 20 organic compounds, including pinene and camphene. According to Japanese reports, the amount of phytoncides released by pine trees is approximately a fourth of that released by Japanese cypresses.

However, there have been domestic reports saying that pine trees emit more phytoncides than Japanese cypresses. Since Korea and Japan have different climates, soil and forestation conditions, it is understandable that there are discrepancies in the amounts of phytoncides production by trees between two nations. Dankook University’s phytoncide research center has already been doing research on phytoncides in a Korean pine tree forest, located in Gyeonggi-do. If any future progress in the research on phytoncides offered us a good understanding of what kinds of phytoncides each tree type releases, we could figure out what types of trees are the best for your forest bathing.

Major ingredients of phytoncides are essential oil components contained in most herb plants. Herb plants have much richer and more powerful concentrations of phytoncides. Then, wouldn’t it be fair to say that herb plants are beautiful, aromatic, healthy gifts from nature In that sense, it would be more important to know where herb plants were grown, who grew them, and how they were grown. However, herb plant traceability is a daunting task that requires much more than chemical analyses.

Nature is a mystery and full of secrets. Yet, it is unequivocal that phytoncides interact with our body, improve our immune system, relieve stress. On top of that, they have medicinal effects and also boost the efficacy of other medicine. Now, I feel like doing some research on herb plants at the Cancer Research Center of the Graduate School of Global Pharmaceutical Industry and Clinical Pharmacy at Ajou University.

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