New method of extracting non-toxic medicinal substances

Without the use of toxic chemicals or solvents, Dr. Chinh develops methods of enzymatic extraction, improving the quality and activity of compounds.

Applying the enzyme method, the research team led by Dr. Nguyen Hoang Chinh and colleagues at Ton Duc Thang University, Ho Chi Minh City has successfully extracted natural compounds with health benefits such as polysaccharides (supporting the treatment of blood cancer), flavonoids (cancer suppressors), polyphenols, terpenoids (anti-aging) from cordyceps, Ganoderma and rosemary medicinal herbs, black musk.

This method was learned by Dr. Chinh (30 years old) when he was a university student. He said previous methods mainly used organic solvents such as methanol, acetone, chloroform as catalysts in the extraction process. Although these solvents offer high extraction efficiency, they can affect the quality and medicinal activity if residues are present.

“To remove residues, heat must be used to expel the volatile solvent, but some less stable compounds that are beneficial when exposed to high heat levels are prone to change and reduce biological activity,” Chinh said. Therefore, since 2018, he and his colleagues have developed new methods of extracting compounds without using harmful chemicals.

This method uses enzymes in the extraction process. The team did not use organic solvents but chose water as the medium for extraction. To increase efficiency, some enzymes such as protease, cellulase are hydrolyzed, breaking down the cellular structural components of the raw materials. From there, the compound inside the cell easily escapes with high extraction efficiency without the use of toxic solvents.

According to Dr. Chinh, the most important factor when using enzymatic extraction is to determine the type or complex suitable for each type of substance. By identifying and obtaining a source of highly active enzymes, it is possible to increase the efficiency of cytolysis. “If inappropriate enzymes are used, they cannot destroy the cell structure, then the extraction efficiency will be poor,” he said.

The enzymes are all derived from microorganisms, plants. It is then cultured by the research team in the right environmental conditions for them to grow and continue to produce. When developed to the right level, enzymes are acquired, purified for use in compound extraction.

Because enzymes are easily modified at high temperatures, they should be stored at 4 degrees Celsius. Depending on the characteristics of the compound, the group uses individually or mixes the two enzymes together to increase the extraction efficiency. In addition, auxiliary methods such as microwave (microwave) or ultrasound (ultrasonic wave) are also integrated to help the compound easily release outside and shorten the extraction time.

Dr. Chinh said that in addition to developing new methods of enzymatic extraction, the research team is in the process of developing new environmentally friendly solvents (switchable solvent and deep eutectic solvent), limiting the impact on quality and drug activity.

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