The health experts – secondary plant substances

Nutritional supplements should always contain whole fruits, mushrooms, herbs, etc. in order to increase the benefits for body and mind.

Genuine heroes from nature

Secondary plant substances help plants to adapt to their environment. For example, they repel predators, protect plants from the sun, rain or fungi, act as growth regulators, and also serve to provide colour, flavour, and fragrance. However, they don’t only help plants, they also have beneficial effects on human health. People can benefit from these effects by eating plants i.e. fruits, vegetables, nuts, mushrooms and herbs. The effects are diverse and can help to both cure and prevent various diseases. For example, it is generally known that resveratrol is a plant substance found in raspberries, cocoa beans and above all in red grapes. Not only does it protect the plant, it also has an antioxidant effect on human cells. Unfortunately, the topic is not widespread in the pharmaceutical industry, because companies generally do not expect to achieve significant profits by including plants as ingredients. That is why they are often unwilling to fund studies on phytochemicals.

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The trend towards naturopathy

Nevertheless, over the last few years medicine has been seeing a trend towards the increasing integration of naturopathy. In this way, the side effects of conventional therapies can be reduced, which is particularly valuable for people suffering from allergies and chronic illnesses. The Centre for Organismal Studies (COS) Heidelberg was founded in 2010. One of its roles is to carry out research into secondary plant substances. At this specialist institute at the University of Heidelberg, an international team led by Professor Thomas Rausch is researching how certain plants control the formation of secondary plant substances. Here, each type of plant has its own mix and strategy. The aim of the research team is to find ways to influence the growth of the plant – without genetic modification, but for example by modulating stress factors such as light or temperature – in such a way that it produces the highest possible quantity of the phytochemicals that we humans find useful. What do these findings mean for everyday nutrition? You should eat as many different types of locally grown, seasonal fruit and vegetables as you can on a daily basis. You should eat them whole, and they should be as fresh as possible.

Nutritional supplements

composition, which makes selecting a supplement easier. Scientists like Prof. Thomas Rausch recommend the use of whole plants instead of isolated, individual ingredients. Isolated ingredients are often included in excessive doses, or cannot be absorbed by the human body. If, on the other hand, nutritional supplements are produced using whole fruits, mushrooms, herbs, etc., the body is better able to absorb the secondary plant substances contained in them.