Flowers diversity- a source of antioxidants for human health
Authors: K.Prasad1, K.Ramesh2 and Pallavi Neha3
1 Division of Food Science & Postharvest technology
Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Pusa campus, New Delhi-110012
*Email of corresponding author:

2 Division of Geography
M.C.L.-S.B.M., SR.SEC.SCHOOL, Harinagar, New Delhi-110064

3 Division of Food Science Postharvest technology
Indian Institute of Horticultural Research, Bengaluru, Karnataka -560089


Antioxidants are the main component of body which fight against the ageing and many health related problems. Horticulture produce are the one of the main source for this antioxidants to the body and Flowers are one of those source. As flowers are full of colour these colour actually depicts the pigments which are present in them and many of these pigments are very useful as antioxidants and they can be a boon to control the lifestyle problems i.e. recent advancing health problems. One should know how these antioxidants are helpful to us and how flowers can be a source for that at home or industrial level for the preparation and extraction of pigments. This article is written to simplify the understanding among farmers and readers about antioxidants and flowers as their source, the mechanism and benefits behind them and the examples of few predominant flowers for this purpose.


Flowers are generally consumed for its aesthetic use like decoration (home, office, and marriage), ornamentals (hair odorants, veni, garlands) and its byproducts (pot pories, perfumes, dry flower cards etc.) apart from this they also have the well-established role in nutritional value it has also nutritional as well as medicinal properties. These nutritional and medicinal property of flowers because of phytochemicals e.g. Phenols, antioxidants, pigments (carotenoids, anthocyanin, xanthophyll, lutin etc.)

Source of antioxidants - Oxygen is one of the vital component for living organisms, it is also a double edged sword. Oxygen is a reactive atom that has capacity to react with our body cells and causes damages. To reduce these damages our body synthesizes some chemicals one major of them is antioxidants, but that is not sufficient. For that we are depending on natural sources like fruits, vegetables, flowers etc.

What are Antioxidant?

As antioxidant its name itself explain against to oxidation. These are scavengers which scavenges the free radicles present in our body. It may be, vitamins or phytochemicals that defend our cells from damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants present in most fruits vegetables, flowers, spices and medicinal herbs. Even medicinal herbs are rich in antioxidants. There are thousand number of naturally occurring antioxidants, some of them are synthesized by the human body but for others we must be depend on these natural sources.

Role of anti-oxidants / How Antioxidants act on Free radicals:

Free radicals reacts with the cells inside the human body and causes cell damage, diseases and many disorders. Cell damage because of free radicals seems to be a major sponsor to aging and diseases like different type of cancers, heart disease, decreases the brain function, reduction in immune system etc. there are various form of free radicals like Superoxide, Hydrogen Peroxide, Singlet Oxygen, Hydroxyl, Nitric Oxide, Peroxinitrite, Hypochlorous Acid.

What antioxidants ultimately do for our body?

• Reduces the risk of Cancer, heart disease, strokes, arthritis.
• Improve immune system.
• Helps to regulate cognitive functions of brain.
• Reduce damage to cells of our body.
• Reduce deterioration of bone, joints and connective tissue.
• Decrease wearing out of organs and decline of the immune system
• Reduces oxidative stress and aging.

How flowers are rich source of antioxidants?

Flowers act as rich source of antioxidants, this is because of the pigments which are available in them, and these pigments are consisting of bioactive compounds like:

1. Carotenoids: It is generally present in red yellow color flowers. It synthesized in the presence of sunlight and UV rays and it is helpful to protect the cell damage due to UV rays. There are a number of carotenoids. Marigold contains 93% edible pigments. Daylily scavenges reactive oxygen radicles and lipid pre oxidation.

Example of flower plants and the form of available pigments under this group are:

Carotene: It is found in the family compositae.

Xanthophyll: Tagetes erecta

Lutein: Melampodium divaricatum, Tagetes erecta (lutein esters 88%) and Cosmus bipinnatus, contain lutein as the major component

Anthocyanin: Hibiscus sabdariffa, Ipomea palmate, Pansy (Viola wittor ckiana)

2. Flavonoids: it protects diseases occurs because of oxidative stress like cardiovascular diseases and cancer. This is 50times more active in comparison to vitamin C and E.

Example of flower plants and the form of available pigments under this group are:

a. Quercetin: Rumex nervosus (30.8% of total flavonoids (1003.0 ± 26.2 mg/kg fresh flower sample),) Present in Elaeagnus angustifolia, Rumex nervosus , carnation (2.27g rutin/kg FM).

b. Rutin: Present in concentration Plumeria obtuse , Bougainvillea hybrid and Ixora chinensis.

c. Kaempferol: It ranges 76 to 87 mg/100 g DW in Tagetes erecta , Antigonon leptopus and Bougainvillea glabra.

3. Vitamins: Vit. A, C and E also have a high antioxidant capacity

Example of flower plants and the form of available pigments under this group are

a) Vitamin A: Dandelion blossoms, Basil flowers, Pumpkin flower

b) Vitamin C: Rose hips are rich source of vit. C. It has 150 times more vit. C than orange. Dandelion blossoms and marigold are also good source. Carnation having 6.96 g ascorbic acid equivalent/ kg FM.

c) Vitamin K: Basil flowers

4. Total Phenolic content: form of antioxidants and accepted as high value antioxidants.

Example of flower plants and the form of available pigments under this group are:

carnation (5.28g Gallic acid/ kg FM), the amount of total phenolic content is more than 100 mg/g DW in Bougainvillea glabra, Tagetes erecta, Cosmos sulphureus, Antigonon leptopus, Tagetes erecta, Cosmos sulphureus, Sophora viciifolia and Prunus mume and Sophora viciifolia .

5. Other- Network antioxidants group

In the body, there is a complex and dynamic interaction between some of the more potent antioxidants. They work together to strengthen the entire antioxidants system, and are for that reason known as the network antioxidants. They are lipoic acid, vitamins C and E, when combined, they greatly increase each other’s antioxidant capabilities and enhance the activities of one another.

Forms in which the flowers can be used as source for antioxidants

Now a days a recent advancement of Aroma therapy is coming in which flowers are used to cure many strain , stress , mental problems by using them in the form of aroma and oils and other forms , this curing of diseases is due to these special pigments which are present in the flowers and acting as antioxidants for the body. Apart from this through pharmaceuticals one can make them available to the body. At household level Indian civilization is practicing it from ancient times but still at home also we can make formulations of flowers extract to use for health benefits. Flowers through cosmetics can be used as antioxidants for skin thus eliminating the skin problems.


Flowers are not having only aesthetic use. Flowers have medicinal as well as culinary property. Flowers are rich in antioxidants like carotene, lutein, xanthophyll, vitamin A, C, K, flavonoids, quercetin, rutin, kampferol, total phenolic content . Thus it is required to know the mechanism and properties of antioxidants along with the fact that flowers are a potential source for these antioxidants. Thus we can identify this role of flowers as antioxidants and can use them for overcoming the health hazards.


- Marina et al., 2013. The antioxidants changes in ornamental flower during development and senescence, Antioxidants; 2: 132-155.

- Post Harvest Technology of Horticultural Crops: Vol.07. Horticulture Science.

- Saraswati S, Preethi TL, Balasubramanyan S, Suresh J, Revathy N, Natrajan S. 2012. Postharvest Management of Horticultural crops, Agro bios India, Jodhpur.

- Zhang H., Yang X. and Wang Y. (2011). Microwave assisted extraction of secondary metabolites from plants: Current status and future directions. Trends in Food Science & Technology. 22: 672-688.

About Author / Additional Info:
Ph.D. Research Scholar at Division of Food Science and Postharvest Technology ICAR-IARI New Delhi, Masters at ICAR-IARI. ICAR-JRF , ICAR-SRF and IARI-SRF Holder