Submitted to: Encyclopedia of Plant and Crops Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: December 15, 2003
Publication Date: April 15, 2004
Citation: Morris, J.B. 2004. Nutraceutical and pharmaceutical uses of legumes. Encyclopedia of plant and crops science. Morris, J.B., 2004. Legumes: nutraceutical and pharmaceutical uses in encylopedia of plant and crop science ed. Robert M. Goodman, p. 651-655. Interpretive Summary: The use of plants as a source of nutraceutical and pharmaceutical products has exploded over the last 10 years. One only has to look at the shelves in health food stores, grocery stores, and pharmacies to realize the tremendous current value and future potential of plants as sources of nutraceuticals and medicines. Plants as a source of nutraceuticals and pharmaceutical products is a multi-million dollar industry. Thus, it is no wonder that in the last 5 years considerable attention has focused on the production of new, alternative crops as a source of high-value by-products of nutraceutical and pharmaceutical use.
Technical Abstract: The legume family Fabaceae has numerous taxa with tremendous potential for nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals that have only recently started to be investigated. This family is the third largest family of flowering plants with approximately 650 genera and nearly 20,000 species. Species in this family range from large tropical canopy trees to small herbs found in the temperate zones, humid tropics, arid zones, highlands, savannas, and lowlands. They provide many specialty products such as beta-sitosterol for lowering cholesterol in humans. Many new products from legumes are being discovered almost daily and include products such as rutin from jackbean ("Canavalia ensiformis"), dietary fiber from guar ("Cyamopsis tetragonoloba"), and winged bean ("Psophocarpus tetragonolobus"). Many legumes contain additional organic chemicals in sufficient quantity to be economic as a source of raw materials for many commercial applications in the nutraceutical and pharmaceutical arena.