Plants are strange and wonderful creatures. They have evolved to live with the smallest nutrients and the least amount of exercise. To achieve this, they have developed a complicated system of chemical processes, for example, to process and nourish things like sunshine. The chemical substances involved in the life of a plant include polyphenols.

The polyphenol is defined as a compound containing more than one phenolic hydroxyl group. For laymen, polyphenols are an organic compound consisting of some phenols. The amount of phenols found in each polyphenol determines both its function and properties.

It can be used in metabolic processes, it could be toxic, it could be therapeutic, or it could just be a chemical compound found in plants.

Polyphenols occur in almost all types of plants and are therefore up to half the dry weight of the leaves of a plant. The most common are tannins.

Polyphenols have antioxidant effects. Some plants use polyphenols to protect themselves against putrefaction and pathogenic attacks. Even some animals, especially insects and crustaceans, contain polyphenols. They are used in creating the hard exoskeleton of these creatures.

Types of Polyphenols

The term polyphenols itself is pretty much an umbrella term for a large group of phytochemicals found in the plant world.

There are a few categories of polyphenols which can be broken down further into various sub-groupings depending on the number of phenol rings they have and based on the structural elements which bind phenol rings to one another. As a rule of thumb, foods from plants contain polyphenols’ complex mixtures with highest levels found on the plant’s outer layers and lower levels found in the inner layers of the plant.

Polyphenols are the backbone of most antioxidants in plants. The chemical composition of polyphenols is two six-carbon rings (benzene rings) connected by a chain of three carbon atoms. The carbon rings are connected to various functional groups such as oxygen, sulfur, nitrogen, and alcohols. The plants, to protect themselves from insects and various diseases, build complex phenolic compounds called flavonoids.

Cinnamic Aldehydes and Monolignols

Cinnamic aldehydes and Monolignols, also known as cinnamaldehyde, arise in the bark of the cinnamon, cassia, and camphor trees and is what gives rise to the familiar cinnamon flavor that you are familiar with. Cinnamaldehyde has been shown to enhance gene expression in human skin cells and prevent various forms of cancer, including skin cancer. It has also been known to suppress diabetes in individuals by inhibiting its progression in cells.

Phenolic Acids

Phenolic acids are a group of phytonutrients (phytochemicals with health benefits) found in berries, spices, nuts, peppers, wine, and vegetables. They are not classified as essential nutrients, but some studies have shown that they have a positive impact on human health.

Phenolic acids include hydroxybenzoic acids which are found in tea. They also include hydroxycinnamic acids which are found in cinnamon and also in blueberries, coffee, plums, kiwifruits, cherries, and apples.

Some phenolic acids, such as capsaicin and tannic acid, have been shown to have powerful anti-bacterial properties. They both slow down the growth of bacteria and kill individual bacterial cells, helping to keep your body healthy in the process.

Gallic acid, a type of phenolic acid, acts as an antihistamine, thereby reducing the severity of the effects of histamine.

Phenolic acids have also been shown to act great as antioxidants, protecting the body from free radicals and preventing cancer in the process. They are also effective against diabetes, weak immune systems, and aging.

Phenolic acids also improve blood health. Capsaicin helps to control the levels of cholesterol in your arteries, thereby preventing the blockage of arteries and keeping blood pressure at an ideal level

Hydroxycinnamic Acids

Hydroxycinnamic acids are types of polyphenols that have a lot of potential for increasing human longevity. These compounds can be found in cinnamon, a variety of berries, and coffee.

Chlorogenic acid, for example, is known to help in weight loss. This chemical forces the body to use its fat reserves for energy. In effect, chlorogenic acid clears up the cholesterol that develops in arterial passages, thereby lowering blood pressure and maintaining a healthier cardiovascular system.

Recent tentative studies have shown that Hydroxycinnamic acids help to prevent cancer by inactivating certain cancerous genes in the DNA sequence. Some dangerous types of cancer that have been shown to be prevented by the intake of Hydroxycinnamic acids include prostate cancer and rectal cancer.

Benzoic Acids

This acid is a common derivative of the chemical benzene. It contains carboxylic acid as the main component. The acid is known by a variety of names, including carboxybenzene, carboxylic acid, and formic acid. It is known that the acid is chemically weak compared to the other acids. Benzoic acid comes from a tree called Benzoinbaum, which occurs mainly in Southeast Asia.

Uses of Benzoic Acids

The acid, which is derived from benzoin tree, has a number of beneficial properties including the ability to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi. It is therefore widely used as a food preservative all over the world. Sodium benzoate, a salt from the acid, is one of the most commonly used preservatives in jams, sauces, and juices. As it is a well-known preservative against bacteria and yeasts, it is often used to preserve foods such as jellies, jams, marmalade, coffee extract, cooked pork, tomato paste, gravy and various types of syrups. Today, it is also widely used to preserve raw foods such as fish and meat.

Benzoic acid is not only used for the preservation of food, but also for the treatment of bacterial infections on the skin. It is combined with salicylic acid to treat many skin infections. Doctors prescribe topical medications containing salicylic acid and benzoic acid to treat mild to severe skin infections caused by the attack of bacteria or yeasts. However, these medicines should only be used for one week. It is rarely prescribed to pregnant women. The acid contained in these medications helps to prevent the attack of bacteria and also completely heals them.

In addition to the above-mentioned uses and advantages, it is also often used to make various chemicals. It is often combined with phosphorus and chloride to make chemicals that are quite toxic. It is also used to make pesticides and insecticides.

Benzoic acid is used in hair sprays, lip balms, perfumes, shampoos, deodorants, sunscreen lotions, hair creams, shaving creams, etc. It is one of the most important ingredients used in most cosmetic products today. It is also used in the production of dyes and plastics. In some countries, the acid is also used to aromatize tobacco.

Although the acid is used in many of the food products, it should only be consumed in a limited amount. The acid mixed with other chemicals can cause serious side effects and be fatal. This exemplary acid, though attributed a number of beneficial properties, should be used safely and at the recommended doses.

Stilbenes

Stilbenes are found in peanut and red wine. The most popular is resveratrol, which is found in red wine, berries, and peanuts.

Stilbenes have a variety of health benefits, including protecting the body from cardiovascular diseases. It’s been noted that people who drink red wine regularly are at a lower risk of heart disease.

Another interesting stilbene is pterostilbene, which is commonly found in grapes and blueberries. It is an antioxidant and has been shown in numerous studies to be effective at preventing cancer and heart disease.

Stilbenes are also commonly added to diet supplements in slightly higher amounts than found in natural sources.

Flavonoids

Flavonoids contain both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. They are found in green tea, red wine, legumes, vegetables, and fruits. Flavonoids are composed of several sub-groups including catechins, flavones, chalcones, flavonols, anthocyanidins, flavonones, and isoflavones.

Catechin

Found in argan oil, broad bean, tea, cacao beans (cocoa powder to a lesser degree because the processing removes nutrients).

Catechin is commonly found in broad bean, argan oil, cacao beans, and tea. The most interesting of these sources is tea. Tea has been shown to have many health benefits for the human body, and many of these benefits have been shown to come from catechin.

Catechin helps prevent the risk of heart disease. A recent study showed that individuals who drink tea at least three times daily face a reduced risk of contracting heart disease. They have also been shown to prevent memory impairment in old age and reduce the age-related loss of neurons. This makes them effective as protection against diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. They have also been shown to help prevent diabetes.

Genistein/Daidzein

Genistein is found in soybeans and is a hormone-like compound. It has been shown by many studies to be a kind of phytoestrogen as well as an antioxidant. It has therefore been used for the most part to treat conditions that are related to the levels of estrogen in the body of the patient.

Certain cancer cells need the hormone estrogen to grow and have estrogen receptors on their surfaces. Genistein takes the place of estrogen on these receptors and in the process prevents the spread of the cancerous tumor. It has also been known to affect gene expression in a way that forces cells to reproduce in a controlled fashion, rather than in the wild and chaotic way that often leads to cancer.

The jury is still out on the full range of benefits of Genistein as studies and laboratory tests are still being carried out. Hopefully, all the research will yield even more health benefits from this chemical that is commonly found in soybeans and soy products.

Sources

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