What are phytochemicals ?

In the broad sense, phytochemicals can be defined as chemicals produced by plants. However the term is generally used to describe non-essential nutrients also known as plant secondary metabolites. When these compounds derived from plants induce activity in biological system including humans, they are described as bioactive phytochemicals.

Phytochemicals provide plants with color, aroma, flavor and a protection from infection and predators but their effects are not limited to plants. Indeed they generate a growing interest in a large range of applications : pharmacology, agrochemicals, cosmetics, food industry…

Groups of phytochemicals

Till now, more than twelve thousand phytochemicals have been isolated from various plants but a large percentage of these compounds remain unknown. They are extremely diverse in terms of chemical structure and distribution. The major classes are the terpenes, the phenolics, and the alkaloids. the minor ones include sulfur-containing phytochemicals and other nitrogenous compounds.