Phytochemicals are the naturally occurring chemical compounds that are biologically active and mainly found in the plants. The medicinal plants are very essential for improving the health of human beings and these plants exhibit the medicinal values in the form of chemical substances that are known to synthesise definite physiological actions in the human beings (Rodriguez-Casado et al., 2016). These are non- essential nutrients that are found in vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts and legumes that are all extracted from the plants. The plant-based food materials are always the complex mixtures of the bioactive compounds thus their potential health benefits are associated with the phytochemicals. There may be one or more organs of the plants that have the potential to serve as a therapeutic purpose is known as a medicinal plant and these plants contain the chemical compounds that are medically active and known as phytochemicals. The research shows that till now, the phytochemicals have been extracted and isolated from the various natural sources like grapes, apples, onion, and broccoli and even from the spices like turmeric (Yang &Xio, 2013).
The increasing inefficiency of the modern drugs has made these medicinal plants to gain acceptability by the people including the doctors and medical researchers because modern drugs failed to control some infectious diseases like typhoid fever, tuberculosis and gonorrhea.
There are various classes of phytochemicals that are available for the use as a medicinal purpose includes alkaloids, glycosides, flavonoids, anthraquinones, phenolics, saponins, tannins, terpenes, essential oils and steroids (Gupta, Singh, Singh & Kaul, 2014).
They provide human beings with unlimited health benefits that include the control over infectious disease, treating some immunity-related disorders like AIDS, treating some minor health issues like wounds, skin infection, cancer and so on. They possess antioxidant properties that mainly play a role in protecting the cells against the damaging effects of the reactive oxygen species that are known as free radicals (Shahidi et al., 2012). The phytochemicals are known as the natural antioxidants that have the major role to play in maintaining health and in the prevention of chronic and degenerative disease like neurodegenerative disease, atherosclerosis, carcinogenesis, rheumatic disorder and cerebral ischemia (Albuquerque et al., 2016). The natural mechanism of the human body fails to synthesize enough number of antioxidants that are important for preventing oxidative stress thus it is important to intake phytochemicals that play an important role in providing antioxidant properties.
The phytochemicals also are potential in inhibition ofanticarcinogens. The most important phytochemical that works for the same is polyphenols and the research states that phenolic acids mainly reduces the formation of specific cancer-promoting nitrosamines that are produced from the dietary nitrites and nitrates (Shahidi, 2012). Similarly, the glucosinolates act as a protective agent against colon cancer.
The phytochemicals also play an important role by providing health benefits as they act as antimicrobial agents. Phenolic acids are those phytochemicals that reduces the adherence of organisms to the cells that lines the teeth and bladder thus reducing the chances of urinary- tract- infection (UTI)as well (Shahidi, 2012). The phytochemicals are also known to exhibit anti-diabetic properties also as they show the antihyperglycemic effect that results in the reduction of triglyceride levels and the total cholesterol levels. The anti-inflammatory effects as the health benefits have gained most popularity because the essential oils have excellent anti-inflammatory activities and the cytotoxicity against HepG2 (Khan et al., 2012).
The phytochemicals inhibit the microorganisms and also interferes with few metabolic processes and are also known to modulate the gene expressions in human beings. The major health benefit that is known to be provided by the phytochemicals is that they act as chemotherapeutic agents and also as chemopreventive agents that are known to retard tumorigenesis.
The main mechanism of action of the phytochemicals is that they cause a disturbance in the cytoplasmic membrane that disrupts the proton motive force, active transport and also the coagulation of the cell contents. These are the neuropharmacological agents that have disease preventing functions (Liu, 2012).
The carotenoids and flavonoids are the inhibitors of the tumor and also show some anti-metastatic activities in the human body. Some of the phytochemicals are also known to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease as it prevents the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, improves arterial elasticity and also normalizes the blood pressure (Tiwari, Brunton & Brennan, 2013). Many bioactive and disease-preventing phytochemicals are found in these medicinal plants and each of them may have one or biologically functioning capacity.
The phytochemicals are the secondary plant metabolites that are also available in the supplementary form that provides health benefits by modulating detoxification of the enzymes. They have antioxidant activities, modulates hormone metabolism, stimulates the immune system and also have anti-cancer properties.
The phytochemicals have proved its worth in providing the health benefits time and again and most of the literature from the databases suggests that their application in the human body has resulted positive (Singh et al., 2015). It has not only proved its worth in treating some of the chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension but some serious diseases which modern drugs have failed to address like cancer. The biological activity of the phytochemicals is not only beneficial in treating the diseases but also in preventing them. They are also the immunity- potentiating agents that have proved its worth since years. Vitamins play an extremely important role in the cancer prevention as the research studies suggest that hydroxyl radicals and the superoxide anions are those biological reactive oxygen species that have a role to play in the development of cancer. The antioxidants such as Vitamin C and vitamin E can be extracted from the fruits and vegetables thus these natural antioxidants along with some phenolic compounds that are found in the plants suppress the production of free radicals thus preventing cancer.
The phytochemicals are thus the most important part of the medicinal plants that are used in various aspects for the management, control and prevention of the diseases in human beings. They are both beneficial for plants and human beings as they have antimicrobial properties.
Albuquerque, T. G., Santos, F., Sanches-Silva, A., Oliveira, M. B., Bento, A. C., & Costa, H. S. (2016). Nutritional and phytochemical composition of Annona cherimola Mill. fruits and by-products: Potential health benefits. Food Chemistry, 193, 187-195.
Gupta, V. K., Singh, G. D., Singh, S., & Kaul, A. (2014). Medicinal plants: Phytochemistry, pharmacology and therapeutics. India: Daya Publishing House.
khan Pathan, R., Gali, P. R., Pathan, P., Gowtham, T., &Pasupuleti, S. (2012). In vitro antimicrobial activity of Citrus aurantifolia and its phytochemical screening. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Disease, 2, S328-S331.
Liu, R. H. (2012). Health benefits of phytochemicals in whole foods. In Nutritional health (pp. 293-310). New Jersey: Humana Press.
Rodriguez-Casado, A. (2016). The health potential of fruits and vegetable phytochemicals: Notable examples. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 56(7), 1097-1107.
Shahidi, F. (2012). Dried fruits: Phytochemicals and health effects (Vol. 8). New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.
Singh, A., Lal, U. R., Mukhtar, H. M., Singh, P. S., Shah, G., & Dhawan, R. K. (2015). Phytochemical profile of sugarcane and its potential health aspects. Pharmacognosy Reviews, 9(17), 45.
Tiwari, B. K., Brunton, N. P., & Brennan, C. (Eds.). (2013). Handbook of plant food phytochemicals: sources, stability and extraction. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.
Yang, J., & Xiao, Y. Y. (2013). Grape phytochemicals and associated health benefits. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 53(11), 1202-1225.
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