Backward Glossary Phytochemicals!

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 Phytochemicals have been used as drugs for millennia. Hippocrates may have prescribed willow tree leaves to abate fever. Salicin, having anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, was originally extracted from the white willow tree and later synthetically produced become the staple over-the-counter drug called Aspirin!

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 Phytochemicals are chemical compounds such as beta-carotene that occur naturally in plants. The term is generally used to refer to those chemicals that may affect health, but are not yet established as essential nutrients.While there is abundant scientific and government support for recommending diets rich in fruits and vegetables, there is only limited evidence that health benefits are due to specific phytochemicals.

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 There is evidence from laboratory studies that phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of cancer, possibly due to dietary fibers, polyphenol antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects. Specific phytochemicals, such as fermentable dietary fibers, are allowed limited health claims by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

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 Some phytochemicals with physiological properties may be elements rather than complex organic molecules. Abundant in many fruits and vegetables, selenium, for example, is involved with major metabolic pathways, including thyroid hormone metabolism and immune function.Particularly, it is an essential nutrient and cofactor for the enzymatic synthesis of glutathione, an endogenous antioxidant.

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 During the 19th and 20th century, the main strategy of the scientists was to discover useful constituents from plant origin, which had medicinal or pesticidal properties. Examples of these discoveries are salicylic avid, morphine and pyrethroids (pesticides). During the 1980s many laboratories started to identify phytochemicals in plants that might be used as medicines. Many of these discovered phytochemicals seems to fight diseases such as cancer, heart attack and stroke. At the same time other scientist conducting epidemiological studies to determine the relationship between the consumption of phytochemicals and human health. Most studies showed that diets rich in plants gave lower rates of cancer and heart disease.

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 Today, most new pharmaceuticals are not discovered in plants but are new synthetic creations. Recently there is a renewed interest in the discovery of phytochemicals. This renewed interest is our awareness has already developed many chemicals, which still have to be discovered.

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