Health-Promoting Properties of Brazilian Unconventional Food Plants

  • Maria Carolina Oliveira Peisino
  • Mariana Santiago Zouain
  • Marcella Malavazi de Christo Scherer
  • Elisângela Flávia Pimentel Schmitt
  • Marcos Vinicius Toledo e Silva
  • Thiago Barth
  • Denise Coutinho Endringer
  • Rodrigo Scherer
  • Marcio FronzaEmail author
Original Paper



This study lies on the unexplored and unprecedented opportunities for the discovery of Unconventional Food Plants (UFPs) rich in nutrients and bioactive compounds. UFPs grow spontaneously and have been consider an important food sources and demonstrate health-promoting properties. This study aimed to investigate the phytochemical profiles together with the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant in vitro activities of the Brazilian UFPs Hypochaeris chillensis, Emilia fosbergii and Emilia sonchifolia.


Preliminary secondary metabolites were identified by LC–MS/MS analysis. Antioxidant activity was determined by the ABTS cation radical scavenging capacity, ferric reducing/antioxidant potential (FRAP), and 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) free radical scavenging assays. The effects of UFPs on nitric oxide (NO), superoxide anion generation (O2•−), and pro-inflammatory cytokine (TNF-α and IL-6) production and on nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) activity was determined using Griess reagent, immunoenzymatic assay kits (ELISA) and chemiluminescence measurements in cell-based assays, respectively.


Phytochemical analysis revealed significant amount of total phenolic content in all of the studied plants. E. fosbergii showed the highest antioxidant capacity in all of the chemical assays, exhibiting IC50 values of 32.9 ± 4.8, 50.2 ± 2.3 and 24.0 ± 2.9 µg mL−1 in the ABTS, DPPH and FRAP assays, respectively. The studied UFPs showed a significant intracellular reduction in NO and O2•− production in LPS-stimulated RAW 264.7 macrophages. Additionally, UFPs suppressed the production of the pro-inflammatory cytokines TNF-α and IL-6 in a dose-dependent manner. Moreover, E. sonchifolia suppressed NF-κB activity.


Altogether, the investigated UFPs exhibited promising bioactive compounds that were capable of neutralizing free radicals, controlling oxidative stress and modulating the inflammatory process.

Graphic Abstract


Hypochaeris chillensis Emilia fosbergii Emilia sonchifolia Oxidative stress Inflammation 



2,2′-Azino-bis(3-ethylbenzothiazoline-6-sulphonic acid)




Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay


Ferric reducing antioxidant power




Nitric oxide synthase




3-(4,5-Dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide


Nuclear transcription factor kappa B


Nitric oxide


Superoxide anion


Unconventional food plants


Reactive oxygen species


Tumour necrosis factor alpha



This study was financed in part by the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior - Brasil (CAPES) (Finance Code 001). The authors also wish to thank the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Espirito Santo (FAPES) and the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) for the financial support.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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12649_2019_792_MOESM7_ESM.tif (648 kb)
Supplementary file 7 (TIFF 647 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Carolina Oliveira Peisino
    • 1
  • Mariana Santiago Zouain
    • 1
  • Marcella Malavazi de Christo Scherer
    • 1
  • Elisângela Flávia Pimentel Schmitt
    • 1
  • Marcos Vinicius Toledo e Silva
    • 2
  • Thiago Barth
    • 2
  • Denise Coutinho Endringer
    • 1
  • Rodrigo Scherer
    • 1
  • Marcio Fronza
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Programa de Pós-Graduação Em Ciências Farmacêuticas, Laboratório de Produtos NaturaisUniversidade Vila VelhaVila VelhaBrazil
  2. 2.Laboratório de Produtos Bioativos, Curso de FarmáciaUniversidade Federal Do Rio de JaneiroMacaéBrazil

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