14/05/2009 10:35

Phytochemistry

 

Phytochemicals are, in the strictest sense of the word, chemicals produced by plants. Commonly, though, the word refers to only those chemicals which may have an impact on health, or on flavor, texture, smell, or color of the plants, but are not required by humans as essential nutrients. An examination of the phytochemicals of Moringa species affords the opportunity to examine a range of fairly unique compounds. In particular, this plant family is rich in compounds containing the simple sugar, rhamnose, and it is rich in a fairly unique group of compounds called glucosinolates and isothiocyanates (10,38). For example, specific components of Moringa preparations that have been reported to have hypotensive, anticancer, and antibacterial activity include 4-(4'-O-acetyl-a-L-rhamnopyranosyloxy)benzyl isothiocyanate [1], 4-(a-L-rhamnopyranosyloxy)benzyl isothiocyanate [2], niazimicin [3], pterygospermin [4], benzyl isothiocyanate [5], and 4-(a-L-rhamnopyranosyloxy)benzyl glucosinolate [6]. While these compounds are relatively unique to the Moringa family, it is also rich in a number of vitamins and minerals as well as other more commonly recognized phytochemicals such as the carotenoids (including b-carotene or pro-vitamin A). These attributes are all discussed extensively by Lowell Fuglie (47) and others, and will be the subject of a future review in this series.

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