Plant-derived phenolics receive considerable interest because of their potential antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. These bioactive compounds naturally available from plants have lower potency than ‘allopathic’ drugs, however, as they are traditionally consumed in significant amounts through the diet, they may have a long-term physiological benefits without any harmful side effects. This is why the role of the phenolics and flavonoids as natural antioxidants and free radical scavengers has attracted considerable interest in the last years due to their pharmacological behavior.
The genus Inula (Asteraceae; tribe Inuleae) comprises several species of reputed medicinal value (Inula helenium L., I. racemosa, I. viscosa L., and I. britannica L.). Inula helenium, a perennial plant widely occurring in Europe and East Asia, belongs to the Compositae family. Its oil consists mainly of sesquiterpenoid lactones, recognized for the strong anti-helminthic activity.
It was reported that extracts from the root possess anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-helminthic activities. Moreover, the compounds show cytotoxic and antiproliferative activities against human cancer cell lines. This biological significance has prompted phytochemists to investigate the chemical constituents of I. helenium plants, which has led to the identification of many bioactive compounds.