This crash course will guide you through all you need to know about secondary metabolites and how plants, animals, and humans take advantage of them.
You won’t find many people who can’t appreciate the beauty and importance of plants.
Plants provide food, shelter, materials and, as we learned in grade school, plants also transform carbon dioxide into oxygen, which all life depends on.
Not many people understand the full extent of our intimate relationship with the plant kingdom and pervasive as it reaches aspects of human life.
This could be due to the differences in the way we communicate and navigate our world and the environment surrounding us.
While humans and animals communicate with sounds and behaviors, the immobile trees interact through the production of chemicals. Plants are equipped with the most sophisticated chemical synthesizers in existence.
The primary chemical function of a plant is photosynthesis, which requires a standard set of substances called metabolites that all plants use to grow and thrive.
But after the standard equipment, individual plants possess a fascinating array of secondary chemical products that they use for a variety of purposes. 
The plant’s “primary” metabolites are those that are common in all other plants, yet the secondary metabolites are what gives the individual plant its personality, survival, creed, and even its own flavor and aroma.
The unique flavor of cinnamon, the stimulating boost of coffee, and even the lusty aroma of the jasmine blossom are all products of secondary metabolites.
Secondary metabolites have been produced by individual plants as evolutionary responses to surviving in their often-harsh environments where the threat from herbivores or insect attacks is always present and the need to attract a specific pollinator always important.
This often called for a special type of brew that could be carried easily on the wind and greatly affect the plant’s environment.
One fascinating example is the way a forest of trees is involved with the production of clouds and the advent of more rain.
A study illustrated that the presence of A-Pinene, a secondary metabolite produced by a wide range of trees and plant life, can contribute to the formation of rain clouds high in the atmosphere. 
This is only one example of how these secondary metabolites are used in a wide range of ecologically, altering ways that have considerable effects on the life that surrounds plants, forests, and vegetation.
Most of the secondary metabolites produced by plants fall into the category of VOCs, Volatile Organic Compounds.
VOCs evaporate easily and are used by plants for biotic and abiotic purposes.
Some of the most common ways that secondary metabolites are applied to the needs of the plant include:
- attracting pollinators,
- warding off insects,
- communicating with each other,
- and many more functions we have yet to learn about.
Examples Of Secondary Metabolites
Here are the secondary metabolites
1. Terpenes And Terpenoids
The largest group of secondary metabolites is also highly volatile and found in almost all plants no matter their size or form.
Terpenes are made from isoprene, which is a gas released from the leaves of many plant types.
This action is believed to keep the plant from suffering in the heat. But it also contributes to the cool air of vegetated regions.
Terpenes are fragrant, colorless, and aromatic elements that are lighter than water and can easily dissipate into the atmosphere.
As an integral part of a plant’s chemical array, terpenes and terpenoids have been studied since ancient times for their many benefits to human health and health conditions.
Terpenes are widely produced to protect a plant from bacterial and microbial attacks. The potent terpenes can apply a variety of punishments to hostile organisms.
Some plants have even initiated two-pronged attacks by striking with terpenes above ground and forming symbiotic relations with an important fungal relative, arbuscular mycorrhiza, below ground. 
Most commonly terpenes are the flavors in the spices we love, the aromas in many of our household items, and even some active ingredients in our war on insect plagues.
But the applications of terpenes in the human industry are extensive.
Latex is another terpene that was of huge importance before the advent of modern synthetic rubber. This terpenoid is massive with almost, 400 isoprene units.
Monoterpenes like linalool and menthol have properties that interrupt neural transmissions. This may pose a serious problem for a pint-sized predatory insect, however, the effects on humans have been very different.
These monoterpenes have been found to interrupt foul dispositions and induce a good mood. And the high quantity of linalool in forest air is believed to be a contributing factor to stress and anxiety relief. 
A-Pinene is one of the most abundant terpenes on Earth and is produced prolifically by many trees but especially coniferous types like pine and fir trees.
As previously mentioned, A-Pinene can interact with chemicals in the atmosphere to help promote the formation of rain clouds.
A-Pinene is also an important anti-inflammatory, gastro-protector, and a bronchodilator. And in addition to allowing for better breathing, it is known for its sedative properties. 
Alkaloids are some of the most commonly used and greatly appreciated secondary metabolites produced by plants.
They are highly toxic in concentrated dosages and often produced to keep insects from feeding on buds, berries, and leaves.
Alkaloids are mostly nitrogen and have extensive uses in the fields of medicine.
Morphine is an alkaloid found in the opium poppy. For a while, Morphine was the most powerful pain reliever and cough suppressant, until its use got out of hand and led to a war breaking out in China.
Another alkaloid that was originally an important medicine but then led to more international disputes, is cocaine.
Native Americans used to chew on the leaves of the coca plant as this alkaloid was an effective appetite suppressant. Modern derivatives of this product have been found deadly.
However there is one more alkaloid that makes the world go round, and that is caffeine.
Found in your tea leaves, coffee beans, and cocoa pods, caffeine was initially meant to keep insects away, but overtime helped begin a culture of productivity and cognitive function.
Phenols are a group of secondary metabolites that have recently gathered much attention for their very specific health benefits.
They are also found in just about every plant on earth and in many of the fruits and spices that we enjoy.
Flavonoids are some of the most commonly appreciated group of phenols and help add a delicious flavor to a wide selection of fruits.
They are especially important in the prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, and many types of cancer.
Celery and chili peppers are also good sources of anti-inflammatory flavonoids that keep the blood vessels strong and healthy.
There are also flavonoid supplements available on the market that can help you if you take them daily.
One more important Phenol is one of the eldest and most important medications on the planet, salicylic acid, or the common aspirin.
Salicylic acid has been extracted from the bark of willow trees since ancient times for both medical and cosmetic purposes.
The Benefits Of Secondary Metabolites To Plant And Animal Life
Secondary metabolites are the language and behavior of plants and have profound effects on the humans and animals with whom they share a natural environment.
Secondary metabolites and their herbal application represent an original thought and help to plan the likes of which human science and thoughts can develop but never emulate.
Disrupting these potent organic compounds, or simply not using them properly, can lead to serious problems in the short and long term.
Consumed in great quantities, alkaloids can interrupt the ion channels and disrupt enzyme activity along with other secondary metabolites inducing unusual psychoactive activity, potential digestive problems, or can simply carry an inedible flavor array.
In the natural environment, the plant and animal kingdoms have produced evolutionary relationships that mitigate the harshness of these potent organic substances and benefit all involved.
For example, the Monarch Butterfly stores reserves of these potent chemicals within its body as a potent response to predatory attacks.
Many plant species will use their chemical arsenal to maintain a balance within the forests’ plan life by allelopathy, where an organism or group of organisms inhibit the growth of competitor organisms, such as smaller plants that will crowd the forest floor.
Humans have also cultivated a close relation with secondary metabolites produced by the vegetation we thrive from.
Some of the more noticeable and dramatic ways include the medicinal, recreational, professional, and even religious and spiritual use for these elements.
However, the flavors, tones, and therapeutic benefits of these herbal substances are important to human life in more subtle ways, possibly even in ways that have yet to be fully understood.
Roles Of Secondary Metabolites In Supporting Our Health
In the following section, we will take a closer look at some case evidence that supports the precision design and roles of secondary metabolites in supporting plant and human health and wellbeing:
1. Antimicrobial Properties Of Secondary Metabolites For Farmers And Crops
The agricultural community has become increasingly aware of the grave dangers in the prolonged use of chemical and synthetic antibiotics used to control harmful bacteria in the soil.
Left unchecked, harmful bacteria like protozoa can cause infectious diseases in both human and plant life. But unfortunately, the conventional solution is not a sustainable solution.
In the following study, a special brew of secondary metabolites, which included essential oils and their organic compounds, was tested for its antimicrobial effects against this protozoan menace.
Saponin was the secondary metabolite that interested researchers as it has the capacity to suppress the bacteriolytic activity of rumen ciliate protozoa.
The final results showed that these secondary metabolites have great potential as natural soil tonics with extensive benefits to humans and plant health. 
2. The Antiparasitic Effects Of Secondary Metabolites
The parasitic invasion often attacks in the most minuscule dimensions. One example is the activities of helminth nematodes as they are directed against crops and the ruminants they feed.
Secondary metabolites have long been used for their excellent antiparasitic capacity.
Furthermore, when administered in proper dosages, there is no risk of side-effects when compared to the synthetic pharmaceutical antiparasitic that can leave dangerous toxin deposits in the liver and other organs.
In the study cited here, the issue of using these plant secondary metabolites, or PSMs, to address parasitic conditions in ruminants is discussed.
The problem, however, is that in large quantities these PSMs can cause gastrointestinal stress to the bovine consumer.
The final conclusion was that PSMs are suitable for antiparasitic agricultural use, but not to be administered to cattle already suffering from a serious parasitic condition.
This solution is better as a preventative measure and only administered with full knowledge of the animal’s conditions. 
3. Insecticide Solutions For Modern Urban Needs
The continued growth of our urban communities is not without its threats.
One of the most prevalent dangers of our global urban communities, and especially those in tropical regions, is the explosion of insect vermin.
The idea of responding to such epidemic proportions as is being experienced in cities like Houston, Washington DC, and New York with the conventional synthetic response would be an
Furthermore, it seems that lice, cockroaches, and other insect pests are becoming resistant to the venoms manufactured artificially.
Thus, science is looking to secondary metabolites as the answer to help control insect populations.
Botanical compounds produced by plants to defend against insect invasions are the most potent and effective.
Furthermore, the vast majority of those synthesized artificially are merely copies of those found in plant secondary metabolites. 
4. Benefits To Human Psychoneuroimmunology
A stressed-out mind and anxious personality will eventually cause serious health conditions.
One of the most prevalent side-effects of prolonged periods of stress, depression, and anxiety has been due to a reduced immune function.
The field of psychoneuroimmunology studies all the ways that emotional states can affect the nervous and immune systems.
The following study proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that the vast quantities of terpenes that are produced by forests and vegetation have an important role to play in the moods, attitudes, and health of the local populace.
This was established through a series of in vivo and in vitro studies.
The study concludes by expressing the high potential airborne that terpenes have help to treat and prevent human health conditions. 
5. Secondary Metabolites For Boosting Cognitive Function
The desire to sharpen the brain through the supplementation and addition of specific foods and substances is a pursuit as old as time.
Most often the products selected are chosen for the way they address the central nervous system and enhance or detract from its smooth function.
The modern Nootropic industry represents the pinnacle of natural solutions to the age-old quest.
Cognitive enhancers of all types owe their potent attributes to a special selection of phytochemicals produced as plant secondary metabolites.
While these substances are not produced by the plants, for this reason, the way the secondary metabolites interact with the human brain allows for increased focus, mental stamina, and many other psychoactive effects.
The reason for these effects can be traced to the biochemical and molecular structures of the chemicals synthesized as herbicides, pesticides, insecticides, or repellants.
Some of the most potent examples of cognitive boosting secondary metabolites exist as alkaloids such as caffeine or nicotine, terpenes like ginkgolides, or phenols like curcumin or resveratrol. 
Final Notes On Secondary Metabolites
The implications expounded by the information contained here can’t be underemphasized.
It is a well-established fact that these secondary metabolites are specially formulated potions developed after a long experience with a plant species and their natural environments.
There is a cunning complexity to the way these precision substances can be applied and used effectively to attract a pollinator, survive the heat or kill off unwanted plant populations, and even
Lastly, no discussion on the topic of secondary metabolites would be complete without a surprising and eerie twist.
One of the most notable examples of herbal intelligence in the use of secondary metabolites is the case of a conjoined effort by the acacia trees in Northern Africa to kill off the expanding antelope population.
The effort not only involved increasing levels of toxicity in the edible leaves that the antelope were consuming but coordinating and planning the assault through communications borne on the winds. 
What we can conclude from this is that the correlation between plants and their environments is precise and intentional.
Just as they have the capacity to ward and kill off unwanted organisms, plants also have a special way of communicating their desire for human companionship.
When we describe the concepts of Paleo Air, we refer to a breathing plan that includes these high quality beneficial secondary metabolites.
The vast array of benefits that are a direct result of a close connection with vegetation underscores the presence of an undeniable symbiotic relationship between human beings and plants.
The better that this relation is cultivated and nurtured, the greater our capacity to use these extraordinary gifts to better our lives.
Far beyond the concert jungles and urban wastelands, there is a community of caring beings that work day and night to produce a curative atmosphere that keeps us alive and better.
It has been this way since the beginning and perhaps many of the physical conditions and ailments that are suffered in society today are caused by the absence of this vital element in our highly-artificial modern lifestyles.
We celebrate this valuable relationship and hope to reignite an interest in healthier living.
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