Secondary Plant Substances And Their Effect On The Body

In addition to minerals and vitamins, many other effective secondary plant substances are produced in plants. Each plant substance fulfills a special function. Therefore, knowledge and familiarity with the individual substances offer a good insight into their combinatorial and physiological modes of action.

Overview of the most important secondary plant substances

Here are the top 16 plant ingredients in alphabetical order:

  • Alkaloids

The alkaloids are predominantly nitrogenous molecules. They are very intense in their effect and can be found in many plants. Alkaloids have various medical effects on the body, including cancer-fighting ones. Alkaloids are also toxic in high doses. One of the best-known examples of an alkaloid is caffeine, which is found in coffee, tea, and cocoa, but also in plants. Another alkaloid is solanine. Solanine is found primarily in the nightshade family and is the reason why many people are sensitive to tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes.

  • Anthocyanin

Anthocyanins are the antioxidant pigments that give many fruits and flowers their blue, purple, or red color. They keep the blood vessels healthy. Anthocyanin is found in large amounts in grapes and blackberries.

  • Anthraquinone

Anthraquinone is a natural laxative found in plants. They relieve constipation, serve as an emollient and promote the peristaltic activity of the intestine. Anthraquinones are found in senna, cascara sagrada, and Chinese rhubarb, for example.

  • Bitter substances

Bitter substances are a basic food group. The human tongue is designed to recognize them. However, due to their unpleasant taste, bitter substances have largely been eliminated from human food. However, they are one of the keys to healthy digestion because they cause the secretion of enzymes in the saliva that nourish and strengthen the body. Many well-known herbal products contain concentrated bitter substances. They are found in coffee, unsweetened chocolate, bitter gourds, and lemon peel, for example.

  • Cardiac glycosides

Cardiac glycosides are natural diuretics that directly strengthen the heart by increasing its rate of contraction. It also improves circulation, lowers blood pressure, and relieves the urinary tract. Cardiac glycosides are found in the following plants: Woolly Foxglove and Red Foxglove. Digoxin and digitoxin are obtained from them. Caution: Plants that contain cardiac glycosides, such as foxgloves, are often poisonous. In any case, consult your doctor before starting treatment with cardiac glycosides.

  • Coumarin

Coumarins provide multiple strengthening mechanisms for the body. These include sun protection, blood thinning, and various muscle relaxants. Coumarins are found in many plants. Well-known examples are the tonka bean (Dipteryx odorata) and members of the Umbelliferae and nightshade family.

  • Silica

Plants from the horsetail family, the borage family, and grasses, such as millet, absorb a particularly large amount of silica from the soil. Since silicic acid is also an indispensable component of the human organism, improvement can be achieved particularly where a silicic acid deficit has developed. Such a deficit is particularly noticeable in the connective tissue, such as skin, hair, and nails. For this reason, a silica cure is particularly recommended if these areas show deficiencies.

  • Flavonoids

Flavonoids are antioxidants known as polyphenols. They get the circulation going and break down tissue that has been attacked by pathogens. Flavonoids are built on the backbone of the flavone molecule, play a role in pigmentation, and have anti-inflammatory properties. The flavone molecule comes in different sizes and contains neoflavonoids and isoflavonoids. Onions, garlic, basil, spinach, and leafy green vegetables are particularly rich sources of flavonoids.

  • Glucosinolates (mustard oil glycosides)

Mustard oil glycosides are irritating and cause inflammation and blistering of tissue. They can be used to increase blood flow to a specific location. They also facilitate the removal of waste (slag). They relieve joint problems and reduce thyroid function. They are mainly found in plants of the Cruciferae family (cruciferous plants) and are responsible for their typical taste in mustard, cress, horseradish, and cabbage vegetables.

  • Minerals

Minerals are among the most important plant ingredients and must not be missing in the human organism. They are essential as a structural substance for the connective tissue, for bones and teeth, as building blocks for endogenous enzymes and hormones, to activate metabolic processes, and to regulate the water balance. Therefore, if there is a lack of minerals, the preparation of appropriate medicinal plants, such as oats, elderberries, raspberries, and sea buckthorn, is very helpful. The most natural mineral complex for the body can be found in the Sango sea coral.

  • Mucilage

Mucilage is a component of many plants. However, there are only a few plants with a high proportion, such as marshmallow, okra, mallow, flax, psyllium, and Icelandic moss. Mucilage stores water and thereby produces a gelatinous mass. This mass has a protective, irritation-reducing, and moisturizing function. Mucilage has a soothing effect on the skin, throat, lungs, intestines, and many other organs.

  • Phenols

Phenols are antiseptic and anti-inflammatory components of plants. They are part of many compounds, for example, salicylic acid (aspirin). In fact, phenols are irritating when applied directly to the skin. However, they are found in all foods. Foods high in phenols should be avoided as much as possible by people with a sensitive digestive tract. Foods containing phenol include food coloring, vanilla flavoring, oranges, tomatoes, peanuts, and chocolate.

  • Saponins

Saponins, along with their relatives the triterpenoids and steroids, are a group of two expectorant elements that liquefy the resulting solid mucus. Therefore, they are often used for a persistent cough. They can trigger hormonal processes that have a similar effect to the hormones naturally occurring in the human body.

Some saponins have a water-repellent effect, so they are often used for so-called blood cleansing cures in spring and autumn. In addition, saponins in medicinal plants have a decisive influence on the absorption of other herbal active ingredients, which means that small amounts of active ingredients often have a major effect. Saponin is mainly found in licorice.

  • Tannin

Tannins are astringent substances found in the bark and leaves of all plants. Its astringent effect comes into play in the case of minor injuries to smaller blood vessels. The tannin serves the plant as a defense against herbivores, which means that it also has a good effect on bacterial stress. Sources of tannin are beer, wine, chocolate, and citrus fruits.

  • Vitamins

Vitamins are considered the basic building blocks of life. They ensure that the body cells are supplied with essential nutrients, activate important metabolic processes, and promote healing and regeneration processes. They are also required for the formation of enzymes, hormones, and blood cells. If a medicinal plant contains a particularly high proportion of vitamins, it can be used specifically as a vitamin supplier. This is the case with rose hips, sea buckthorn, goji berries, acerola cherries, and some other plants due to their high vitamin content.

  • Essential Oils

Essential oils are plant components with a strong but, with a few exceptions, very pleasant smell. The Lamiaceae, daisy family, and Umbelliferae have a particularly high content of essential oils. Essential oils are made up of up to 100 different individual substances that have a high therapeutic benefit.

For example, they are highly antiseptic, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory. In addition, they have a diuretic, antispasmodic, or tonic effect on the stomach, intestines, liver, and bile. Essential oils are often used in aromatherapy. Since they also show their effect in the psychological area, they can change moods positively and balance out mood swings. Some of the most popular essential oils are tea tree, black cumin, peppermint, rosemary, lavender, and oregano.

Be careful – The effects

The plant extracts described above can have a very intense effect. Therefore, be aware that all substances that have the so-called therapeutic index can also overdose. Plants can always be medicine and poison at the same time. It always depends on the dosage. Therefore, do not experiment with plants whose effects you do not actually know exactly. Get detailed advice from competent experts.

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Written by John Myers

Professional Chef with 25 years of industry experience at the highest levels. Restaurant owner. Beverage Director with experience creating world-class nationally recognized cocktail programs. Food writer with a distinctive Chef-driven voice and point of view.

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