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Cancer and anti-inflammatory medicines from Marigold petals!

21 May, 2021 14:58:46
Cancer and anti-inflammatory medicines from Marigold petals!

Cancer medicines from Marigold! Yes, you got it correct. West Bengal farmers had diversified from agriculture to horticulture almost a decade back and have turned their farms into major exporters of flowers. Several floriculture projects have already come up in the state where farmers have been growing high quality flowers commercially including roses, marigold, gladioli, tube roses, hibiscus, carnations, sunflowers, chrysanthemums, orchids etc. These flowers have a ready domestic market and are also exported in large quantities abroad. But now they are being used to develop cancer medication.

Marigold is one flower that is extensively used in temples and for worship, marriage ceremonies etc. Once the flowers are used, they are discarded. These discarded marigold flowers popped an idea for Dr Suhrita Charabarty, Professor at Mohunpur Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswa Vidyalaya (Bidhan Chandra Agricultural University). The scope to use them to find alternative sources of income for the marginalized farmers came up. The dried petals of marigold are crushed to a fine powder. Marigold flowers have lutein, which is a type of vitamin, related to beta-carotene and vitamin A. It is one of 600 known naturally occurring carotenoids. 


“Lutein is a carotenoid with reported anti-inflammatory properties. A large body of evidence shows that lutein has several beneficial effects, especially on eye health. In particular, lutein is known to improve or even prevent age-related macular disease which is the leading cause of blindness and vision impairment. It also has great potential for fighting cancer. So if the powder can be manufactured in huge scale commercially, it will not only provide an alternative source of income for the farmers but will also be a step forward towards industrialization in the state and generate jobs locally with pharma companies,” Dr Charabarty told the media. Charabarty has been researching for several years on the diverse and effective use of the marigold flowers. The powder has a long shelf life and can be preserved for up to six months. 

The year-long COVID-19 pandemic has hit floriculture in a major way. Flower wholesale markets across the country are either partially shut or fully closed due to lockdown imposed by the government to prevent the spread of corona virus, affecting thousands of growers and traders associated with the floriculture business. Under such trying times, manufacturing powder from marigold flowers can be a source of income for the hapless cultivators. Once the flowers are picked from the shrubs, they have a shelf life of not more than five days. Farmers are compelled to destroy the huge amount of produce from the fields as there are no buyers. Dr Charabarty insists that this trend can be reversed and farmers can make a hefty profit if they grind the flowers into powder and sell to pharmaceutical companies in south India, where there is a great demand for lutein in large quantities for manufacturing medicines. 

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