Phytochemicals and Eucalyptus as a Wonder Plant: Wealth out of Waste
Arun dev Sharma
PG Dept of Biotechnology
Lyallpur Khalsa College
Jalandhar, Punjab, India
Special thanks to Inderjeet Kaur for helping with this article.
What are aromatic plants
Aromatic plants are most widely used as a source of traditional medicine. Literature survey revealed that, despite great progress in synthetic chemistry and western medicine, plants are still the backbone of primary health care. Worldwide underutilized plants are widely used as herbal medicine in villages. So detailed investigation of these underutilized plants is the need of the hour especially in developing and underdeveloped countries, where primary health care strongly relies on traditional drugs. Due to antioxidant properties, the consumption of these plants is increasing day by day for the development of novel and biodegradable effective drugs as an alternative to contemporary medicine. Medicinal plants’ contribution to phytomedicine to the well-being of the world population, has attracted a significant amount of interest from all disciplines. Plant-based herbal formulations are healthier, safer, and more reliable than synthetic medicines. Medicinal plants have been used as an important source of therapeutic drug molecules as they pose secondary metabolites which are potential sources of drugs. The major bioactive components are secondary metabolites produced by these plants such as alkaloids, flavonoids, phenols, saponins, generally produced by plants as defense mechanisms that have been implicated as therapeutic drug molecules in medicinal plants. These components are reported to suppress redox reactions of free radicals in a biological system. Herbal agents are a mixture of plant parts and their formulations are vital for medicinal, nutrient, and antioxidant values.
What are Essential oils
Plant essential oils are secondary metabolites being derived from aromatic plants. Essential oil is a complex mixture of various bioactive chemical molecules such as hydrocarbons, aromatic derivatives, terpenes, and their oxygenated derivatives such as mono- and sesqui-terpenoids, alcohols, and esters, alcohols, and other aromatic compounds. Due to these diverse complex bio-structures that act synergistically, essential oil poses various biological activities like antimicrobial, antiviral, fungicidal, insecticidal, and herbicidal. It was reported that the yield and composition of essential oils greatly depend on plant organs (leaves, flowers, stems) as well as the ecosystem in which the plant grows. Essential oils are so named because they represent the very essence of odor and flavor of the plant. This essence of an odor of oils comes from volatile substances like aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons, aldehydes, alcohols, esters, and other constituents being emanated from flowers, seeds, the bark of trees. At present, about 3000 essential oils from different aromatic plants are known, which due to their fragrance and odor are commercially important in the cosmetic and perfume industry. Various potent biological activities including antibacterial, antioxidant, and anticancer are attributed to essential oils, hence playing a key role as therapeutics in the scientific community. Due to their herbal nature, safer alternatives to chemical drugs, interest in these kinds of secondary metabolites in plants is increasing day by day. Essential oils are valuable natural products of plants used as raw materials in several fields, together with perfumes, cosmetics, aromatherapy, botanical medicine, spices and nutrition, and pesticides. Therefore, over time a great interest has been paid to essential oils that may be used as therapeutic medicines.
Eucalyptus a wonder plant
Eucalyptus, a member of the Myrtaceae family, is a fast-growing tree that reaches a height up to 25-50 meters. This tree can grow in wide climatic conditions and thrives best in tropical to temperate conditions. This tree can tolerate drought stress hence can be cultivated in drought areas and wastelands with a temperature range from 0-47°C. The Eucalyptus consists of approximately 900 species and is distributed all over the world due to its easy adaptability, ease of cultivation, tolerance to a wide range of environmental conditions, and fast growth. Many reports indicate that more than 300 species of this genus are naturally rich in essential oil content in their leaves. Hence variability of oils in plant species is often reticulated by increased chemical complexity, seasonal, geographical, and climatic conditions, harvest time, and extraction techniques. Eucalyptus globules, native to Tasmanian and South-East Australia, member of Myrtaceae family is one of most widely spread genera. The leaves of this plant are used to extract Oleum Eucalypti (eucalyptus oil) worldwide. Essential oil (EO) from this aromatic plant has a long history to be used as a traditional medicine in ancient times. Due to the enriched presence of 1,8-cineole in its essential oil, leaf extracts from this plant is widely used as a raw material in the pulp, cosmetic, pharmaceutical, food beverage, aromatherapy, and phototherapy.
Many countries have approved extracts of Eucalyptus leaves as food additives. In this regard, alcohol monoterpenoid components of the volatile compounds of the Eucalyptus globulus essential oil are commercially accessible for the management of the common cold and other symptoms of respiratory tract infections. The essential oil from Eucalyptus plants is in great demand in the market due to a broad spectrum of applications like flu, colds, muscular pain, expectorant in case of bronchitis (cough syrup), treatment of gum disease like “pyorrhea”, mosquito repellent products, anodyne, deodorant, hemostat, fumigant, sedative, vermifuge, burns, boils, cancer, dysentery, diarrhea, inflammation, leprosy, malaria, sore throat, sores, spasm, wounds, etc. Patients with asthma are advised to inhale vapors of this oil as aromatherapy. It plays a very important antiseptic role in the preparation of menthol and thymol used in toothpaste. Worldwide it is also used in the preparation of aerosol which is used in chemical and varnish industries.