What is Phytochemistry? – Phytochemicals | Health and Other benefits

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What is Phytochemistry?

Etymologically, “Phyto” is an Ancient Greek word meaning “Plant”. Therefore, Phytochemistry is the study of the chemicals present in plants called – Phytochemicals. However, the chemical constituents of plants are two; primary metabolites and secondary metabolites.


Primary metabolites

These are the chemical constituents of a plant required for its cellular growth, metabolism, and proper functioning of the system. The maintenance of the physiological processes of the plant depends on these metabolites. Examples of Primary metabolites include; Amino acids, Carbohydrates, Vitamins e.t.c.

Secondary Metabo environmental lites

The secondary metabolites are formed from chemical modifications of the primary metabolites. They do not play role in cellular growth or physiological processes of a plant, rather, they solve environmental issues such as defense and offense. Some examples of these secondary metabolites are; Tannins, Saponins, Glycosides, Volatile oils, Terpenes, and Flavonoids. 1

Phytochemistry focuses on the identification, Isolation, and study of these secondary metabolites.

Benefits of Phytochemicals

The primary function of phytochemicals is to help the plant to survive against herbivores, pests, and pathogens in its immediate environment. 2. However, Plant secondary metabolites are unique sources for pharmaceuticals, food additives, flavors, and industrially important biochemicals. 3.


Sources of Pharmaceuticals

Phytochemicals possess Bioactive compounds – substances in food or animal that has a biological effect when ingested. Nevertheless, these substances make them a potential source of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API).

Alkaloids, for example, are the source of so many drugs like Quinine, Ephedrine, Cocaine, and Nicotine.

Food additives

Health benefits of Phytochemicals are the main reason for their use as Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals. They are fortified, Enriched foods to help with additional benefits to the consumers. Secondary metabolites can also improve the acceptability of foods. Volatile oils from Plants like Garlic are used widely in food industries as flavorings.

Biochemical sources

So many researches are ongoing on the use of so many plants’ secondary metabolites as a source for Agrochemicals and Biofuels. E.g., the Terpene-derived biofuels.


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