The story of Beta-carotene starts with its discovery by the German pharmacist Heinrich Wilhelm Ferdinand Wackenroder (8th March 1798 – 4th September 1854). Wackenroder was a pharmacist who was investigating a type of chemical known as an anthelmintic which has anti-parasitic properties.
He was looking for an anthelmintic that could remove parasitic worms from the body, especially the intestines. Such was his interest in the area, he published a paper in 1826 about anthelmintics in fruit and vegetables entitled 'On Anthelminthics in the Vegetable Kingdom'. His paper earned him much praise in the academic community and he also the Royal Prize.
In 1831, Wackenroder turned his attention to the investigation of carrots and found them to be particularly helpful with helminthiasis, which is the term used for worm infestation. Having made the discovery, Wackenroder set out to investigate the properties of carrots in order to find out the active ingredient that were providing the anthelmintic activity.
Wackenroder, turned the carrots into juice and noted that the resultant juice was 'brick-red in colour' and the taste was 'aromatic'. After much experimentation, he was able to isolate the colour giving pigment from the carrot juice which eventually came to be known as Beta-carotene.
Beta-carotene is not only found in the colourful foods bust it is also found in green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach and certain types of cabbage but it is also found in sweet potatoes. The list of foods containing beta carotene although not exhaustive is vast. Beta-carotene can be found in the following foods: apricots, asparagus, chives, dandelion leaves, grapefruit, chili powder, oregano, paprika, parsley, ketchup (lycopene), onions, peas, peppers in their different colours, plums and squashes.
Beta-carotene is thought to help with asthma, cancer, heart disease, cataracts, AMD, AIDS, alcoholism, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, epilepsy, headache, heartburn, high blood pressure, infertility, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, schizophrenia, psoriasis and vitiligo.