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Science has shown us that plants contain specific substances that are crucial to their survival. These substances perform the same role as our human “systems” (ie digestive, immune, and endocrine systems).
Secondary metabolites are those compounds that support the survival activities in plants. They defend against predators and pathogens (bacteria and fungi), they protect from physical assault such as UV rays, ozone and pollutants (free radicals), they serve as signalling molecules and they support the plant cell reproduction.
These metabolites are concentrated in the plasma of the stem cells, which are literally found in abundance in the stems of the plants. Thus the term "meristem" - they come from the meristem of the plant which is where most growth takes place. Secondary metabolites that you may have already come across are flavonoids, isoflavones, terpens, coumarines, and phenylpropanoids. These compounds have attracted great interest from the medical community for their uses as natural and bio-similar therapeutic actives. In fact, many scientists believe that almost all topical medicine and cosmeceuticals will be made up of secondary metabolites from plants in the near future – even sunscreen!
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