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The season for fresh cabbage is just coming. The vegetable that was praised for centuries is a great remedy for hangover, arthritis, anemia and much more. Still it is finding new, more surprising applications. It might be pretty soon when the concentrate of cabbage juice will be used to produce totally non-toxic cleaning agents, sandwich paper that also works as a preservative, or ecological plant protection products.

Not only garlic

When there’s a flu we usually eat garlic, lemon and honey. When there’s a wound – we disinfect it with these special sprays from pharmacy. But who remembers about the cabbage juice which is great medicine for every flu? Or about cabbage leaves, that when put on the wound disinfect it and help healing faster? Well, cabbage is not on our minds when we search for bactericidal or fungicidal activity.

But sure dr Irena Niksińska and her colleagues from Warsaw Institute of Industrial Chemistry had it on their minds. That’s why they won the gold prize at iENA show last year. Scientists have found a method for squeezing the maximum amount of cabbage juice and separating fungicides and bactericides it contains. It’s worth reminding this, because next edition of iENA will finish soon.

Overstressed vegetable

Under chemical stress (when the cabbage is growing on highly contaminated soil), or when nibbled by a herbivore/shredded, cabbage becomes a magician vegetable. Wonderful fungicidal and bactericidal agent. This is because of reaction that causes decomposition of glucosinolates to isothiocyanates and indoles. These are substances responsible for biocidal and antioxidant properties. What’s more surprising – they were discovered by an accident, during research about cabbage usage for phytoremediation (bioremediation using plants, in this case mitigating pollutant concentrations in contaminated soils with plants able to contain, degrade, or eliminate it) .

The concentrate obtained from cabbage that was used to phytoremediation is 100% natural and cheap. Even more, as it’s best to use vegetables that no one would like to eat (contaminated with metals from remediated soil) it’s very economical to have an opportunity to use them instead of throwing away.  

Fertilizers, food and cancer

From discovering the unusual properties to innovational uses. Where? Dr Irena Niksińska says that the distillate can be a great replacement for synthetic pesticides. It can be also used to soak the seeds before planting, making them more resistant to fungi, and instead of chemicals to protect fruit during transportation and distribution. Naturally. The concentrate could also be added to paint, so it could stop growing fungi on food magazines walls.

Due to the antioxidant properties, the distillate could theoretically also work as a medicine to treat and prevent cancer. However, the process of registering new drug is so long and expensive, that dr Irena doesn’t even think about it. Anyways, as long as there is no drug I simply recommend just eating cabbage in its natural form – vegetable.

Natural preservative

Still, the most interesting research is about spraying different food products with a distillate of cabbage or adding it to the paper. Such biocidal paper could be used to produce books for our children, but mainly – as a sandwich paper.

Who knows, maybe soon we will pack sandwiches to work, and they will still be fresh when we find them occasionally in a briefcase after a month.  It is quite possible. Especially when you think what dr Maria Niksińska was showing in every occasion when talking about it: the bread sprayed with distillate of cabbage  for half a year looked like it had 3 days (while the control piece, wrapped in foil, was rather scary).

Samanta Makurat

Chemistry student at the University of Gdańsk, fascinated with molecular modeling. Nature enthusiast.


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