Plant Products for Health


Plants play an essential role in many aspects of human health, including nutrition and medicine. Advancements in biology and engineering have hastened research regarding plant‐based medicines. More specifically, biotechnology has played a significant role in identifying new ways that plants can be utilised. There are three major directions that plants are being developed to improve our health. The first concerns the use of plants as production platforms for modern pharmaceuticals. The second deals with plant biofortification strategies to prevent malnutrition and defeat chronic diseases. The third describes the identification and analysis of bioactive compounds derived from plants in modern medicine. All three sections bring to light mankind's continuous reliance on plants for our current and future health needs.

Key Concepts

  • Plants play an essential role in many aspects of human health, including nutrition and medicine.
  • Plants can be used as production platforms for biopharmaceuticals.
  • Biofortified crops such as Golden Rice and Banana21 can prevent Vitamin A deficiency.
  • Plant secondary metabolites can be used as a source of bioactive molecules to improve human health.
  • However, significant opposition to biotechnology has slowed the research and development of plant-based health products.

Keywords: transgenic; biotechnology; biofortified; secondary metabolite; global health

Figure 1. Plant‐based recombinant pharmaceuticals: An overview of genetic engineering techniques.
Figure 2. Examples of nutritionally enhanced crops. (a) Golden Rice. Source: Licensed under CC by 4.0. (b) Anthocyanin‐rich tomatoes. Gonzali et al. . Reproduced with permission of Elsevier.


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Further Reading

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Venkataraman, Srividhya, Makhzoum, Abdullah, Shoaib, Erum, and Hefferon, Kathleen(May 2019) Plant Products for Health. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0023732]