Not only edible mushrooms and berries, but plants which can also be used for food, as herbs and for medicinal purposes, grow in forests. Several species are utilised in the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. Plants growing in clean Finnish nature and during the light summer conditions contain high concentrations of active substance.

The effects of wild plants are verified by research

In co-operation with commercial enterprises, the Natural Resources Institute Finland has investigated the active substances of various wild plants and side products of trees, including rose root, bilberry shoots, juniper shoots, birch leaves, yarrow and resin as well as the possibilities of utilising plants in the natural product and pharmaceutical industry.

Resin. Photo: Erkki Oksanen, Luke.
Photo: Erkki Oksanen, Luke.

The studies have shown that for example antimicrobial activity of yarrow extract increases in abundant sunlight and spruce resin inhibits the growth of nail fungus. Resin, and resinoic acids in particular, inhibit the energy production and proliferation of infectious bacteria. As the growth of microbes in a wound is prevented, the body’s own defence mechanisms function more efficiently.

Geographical location appears to influence the concentrations of active substances in plants. For instance, the concentrations of phenolic and terpene compounds in juniper, phenolic compounds in bilberry shoots, and flavonoid compounds in birch are higher the further north the plants grow. The average concentrations of the tested compounds were 1.5 to 10 times higher in northern Lapland than in the coastal area of southern Finland.

Research and innovations for enterprise development

Research relating to the industrial exploitation of wild plants is often carried out in cooperation with companies. The research aims to develop new innovations based on natural products.

The ‘Voimametsät’ (strength from forests) project underway in Lapland seeks natural raw materials in the wild for use in wellness products and well being services. The project tests include the production of chaga mushrooms by grafting the mycocelial filaments of these mushrooms on to birch trees, cultivation of lingonberries and enhanced pollination of wild berry species.

Picture on top of the page: Erkki Oksanen, Luke.

See also