Several flowers used as food, such as artichoke, cauliflower and broccoli have high nutritional value and huge gastronomic acceptance. However, they are only a few representatives of myriads of flowers recognized as strategic sources of bioactive natural antioxidants and anti-microbial compounds, which can be exploited as natural food preservatives and to decrease microbial spoilage. The potential of flowers as human food is still underestimated, although they have been lately utilized to bring flavor, color and visual appeal to food. Development of products containing edible ornamental flowers can be a sustainable solution to the industry of cut flowers, since tons of flowers are discarded every day regardless of their nutritional and functional value, because they lack ornamental quality. In this work, we evaluated anti-Alzheimer (acetylcholinesterase inhibition), antimicrobial and antioxidant activities of flowers from five plant species, orange hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa), carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus), sunflower (Helianthus annuus), purple and pink violet (Saintpaulia ionantha), aiming at the future development of innovative foods or ingredients for food supplements industries. The flowers were dried at 40 °C and maintained good color quality. Both purple and pink violet species showed efficiency in inhibiting acetylcholinesterase (57.00 e 55.00%, respectively); the latter was also active against S. aureus (46.82%). Orange hibiscus was the most active species, possessing high concentration of phenolic compounds (4.04 g/100 g), and an excellent overall antioxidant activity in ferric reducing power (67.40%), DPPH capture (IC 50% 739.60 µg.mL-1) and ABTS capture (IC 50% 96.21 µg.mL-1) assays, in addition to antimicrobial activity against S. aureus (45.82%). This species was also able to inhibit acetylcholinesterase (42.37%). These results point out the potential of these edible flowers as innovative food for health and colorful diet or to be incorporated in new products as natural food preservatives and supplements. They can also be employed as a synergic resource for Alzheimer’s patients, already using prescription drugs, due to their antioxidant and acetylcholinesterase inhibition capacity.
Keywords: flower, functional food, hibiscus, Alzheimer.