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Spinach is botanically named as Spinacia oleracea, is an edible flowering plant of the family Amaranthaceae. It is native to central and southwestern Asia. It is an annual plant which grows to a height of up to 30 cm. The leaves are alternate, simple, and ovate to triangular-based, very variable in size from about 2–30 cm long and 1–15 cm broad, with larger leaves at the base of the plant and small leaves higher on the flowering stem.

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Botanical Names
Spinacia oleracea
Indian Names
Marathi : Palak Hindi : Palak Gujarati : Palak Tamil : Pasalai keerai Telugu : Paalakura Bengali : Palong Kannada : Basale
Chemical Constituents
Spinach contains number of different chemical constituents which has a high nutritional value. Spinach is extremely rich in antioxidants, especially when fresh. It is a rich source of vitamin A and especially high in lutein, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, folate, betaine, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, protein, niacin, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids. Spinach is a good source of folic acid. Spinach also contains minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, phosphorous, and iron. Spinach leaves also contains several active components such as flavonoids, glucorosides. Spinach is rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidant compounds from the carotenoid family. Leaves of freshly chopped spinach contain approximately 1000 mg of total flavonoids per kilogram.
Pesticide Limits
A limit for pesticide is one of the major issues in standardization of medicinal plants and products in view of the worldwide widespread use of pesticides in cultivated plants. The presence of pesticides in extracts increase the health risk by many folds. The pesticides can be extremely irritant on skin as well as in the internal organs, it is essential to monitor its concentration as a part of GMP. Various analytical methods for the quantitative determination of pesticides by gas chromatography coupled with mass-spectrophotometer are in use. Konark Research Foundation (KRF), a NABL certified lab is well equipped with the latest technology and instruments and monitors the pesticide limit as part of its GMP.
Chromatographic Profile
From the pharmacopoeial perspective, a better quality control of raw material can be achieved by specifying quantitative test procedure for the determination of the range or a minimum content of the active ingredient or marker substances. A chromatographic finger profile represents qualitative/ quantitative determination of various components present in a complex plant extract, irrespective whether or not their exact identity is known. Thin layer chromatographic technique is the simplest and least expensive method that provides plenty of information on the composition of raw herbs and its preparation. For quantitative analysis of active ingredients or marker substances with simultaneous separation and detection High Pressure liquid chromatography is the best technique. We use the latest model of HPLC for all its analysis.
Limits of Impurities
A test requirement for foreign organic matter would ensure the extent of contamination of extraneous matters such as filth and other parts of botanicals not covered by the definition of the herbal drug. Since sand and soil are predictable contaminants of botanicals, test requirements for ‘total ash’, water soluble ash’, ‘acid soluble ash’, residue on ignition and sulphated ash would be expected to limit such contaminants. Test requirement for heavy metals in botanical raw material are probably more relevant for parts of plants growing under ground than for the aerial parts of the plant. The presence of high levels of minerals interacts with the final product there by affecting its keeping quality.
Microbial Limits
If the raw herbs are to be used directly without boiling in water prior to consumption, restrictive limits on microbial contaminants are required for pathogens such as Salmonella sp. Enterobacter and E. coli which are causative agent for various gastrointestinal diseases. A lower level of yeasts and molds and a limit on total aerobes are considered appropriate in plant material for topical use. The presence of aflatoxins detected by chemical means is generally independent of the number of viable molds that are detected using microbiological methods. Aflatoxins in microgram quantity are capable of giving serious hypersensitivity reactions which can be extremely harmful to human health.
Spinach has several medicinal applications. In addition to being a great source of vitamins and minerals, Spinach also acts as a cancer fighter, a mental stimulant, an anti-oxidant, and an aid against osteoporosis. It is a rich source of iron thus it is a valuable food in the treatment of anaemia. It also contains chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is known to have a chemical formula remarkably similar to that of haemoglobin, and ingestion of chlorophyll will raise the haemoglobin of the blood without increasing the formed elements. Spinach extract inhibit the proliferation of leukemic cells, stomach, uterus, cervical, breast, and colon, central nervous system, and lungs cancer cells. Spinach extract also showed anti-mutagenic capacities. In addition, antioxidant in spinach extracts had protective effect on rats and mouse heart. Consumption of spinach reduces neurological deficits on aged rats, could prevent or reverse the declines associated with aging, and protect the brain. Studies have also shown that diet rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, including those of spinach, may reduce risk of macular degeneration associated with aging and may play a role in cataracts prevention. Spinach consumption proves to be useful in dealing with the some other problems as well such as tumors, anemia, insomnia, constipation, high blood pressure, nerve exhaustion, neuritis, dyspepsia, and bronchitis.
Health Benefits
Spinach is a rich source of antioxidants. Antioxidant power of spinach is high and it is superior to vitamin E and green tea. Spinach offers many health benefits. Some of the important health benefits of spinach are prevention from heart diseases, osteoporosis, arthritis, colon cancer, etc. Spinach has long been considered as an important food for keeping the body free of a variety of health problems. Spinach helps in dealing with bone problems. The presence of calcium, vitamin K, folic acid, and iron in spinach makes it nutritious and thereby, good for health. High content of calcium present in spinach helps in strengthening the bones. Vitamin K present in spinach prevents the activation of osteoclasts in excess. The osteoclast levels need to be kept in check because these are responsible for breaking of the bones. Vitamin K1 is converted into vitamin K2 by the intestinal bacteria. Vitamin K2 helps in activating a non-collagen protein called osteocalcin. The vitamins (A & C) present in spinach prevent the oxidation of cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart diseases. Thus, prevention of such kind of oxidization prevents blockage in arteries. Magnesium, which is present in abundance in spinach, helps in lowering high blood pressure and provides protection against various heart diseases. Carotenoid present in spinach helps prevent prostate cancer. Spinach also contains a chemical known as kaemferol which helps in dealing with ovarian cancer. Inclusion of spinach in the diet is a good option to lower the risk of cancer. There are many other benefits of spinach apart from those mentioned above. Spinach contains beta-carotene, an antioxidant, which helps to fight with the development of cataracts. Macular degeneration, which is an age-related problem, is prevented by lutein, a phytochemical present in spinach. The process of formation of chemicals required for blood clotting is assisted by vitamin K. Spinach is rich in vitamin K and thus, helps in the process of blood clotting.
Application in Cosmetics
Spinach is a rich source of antioxidants. Antioxidants are very important for healthy skin. Free radicals damage the skin and leads to formation of wrinkles. Antioxidants act as free radical scavenger and protect the skin from harmful free radicals. Spinach exfoliates and lightens unwanted pigmentation. It is crucial for brightening complexion and lightening pigmentation, removing excess skin buildup, and adding brightening support. Spinach softens and digests unwanted skin cells, and aids in the suppression of melanin. Spinach contains lutein, lycopene, b carotene, polyphenols etc. all these components are known to increase sun protection factor. SPF enhancing nutrients are found in spinach. This makes spinach quite probably the single most potent whole food nutrition source to reduce the risk of ultra violet sun damage to skin and thus the risks of sunburn or various skin cancers.
Research References
1. Liat L., Margalit B., Abraham N., Varda B., and Shlomo G. Composition, Efficacy, and Safety of Spinach Extracts. NUTRITION AND CANCER, 2003. 46(2), 222–231 2. T. TROSPER AND C. FREEMAN ALLEN Carotenoid Composition of Spinach Chloroplast Grana and Stroma Lamellae1 Plant Physiol. (1973) 51:584-585 Shoji Ida and Bunzo Mikami Spinach ferredoxin-nitrite reductase: a purification procedure and characterization of chemical properties Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) Protein Structure and Molecular Enzymology 1986 871(2): 167-176 L. R. Howard, N. Pandjaitan, T. Morelock, and M. I. Gil Antioxidant Capacity and Phenolic Content of Spinach As Affected by Genetics and Growing Season J. Agric. Food Chem., 2002, 50 (21): 5891–5896 Lomnitski L., Foley J. E., Grossman S., Shaul V. B., Maronpot R. R., Moomaw C. R., Carbonatto M. and Nyska A. Effects of apocynin and natural antioxidant from spinach on inducible nitric oxide synthase and cyclooxygenase-2 induction in lipopolysaccharide-induced hepatic injury in rat. Pharmacol Toxicol. 2000 87(1):18-25.