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Extraction of High-Value Chemicals from Plants for Technical and Medical Applications

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineLiterature reviewpeer-review

Article number10334
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>7/09/2022
<mark>Journal</mark>International Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number18
Number of pages28
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Plants produce a variety of high-value chemicals (e.g., secondary metabolites) which have a plethora of biological activities, which may be utilised in many facets of industry (e.g., agrisciences, cosmetics, drugs, neutraceuticals, household products, etc.). Exposure to various different environments, as well as their treatment (e.g., exposure to chemicals), can influence the chemical makeup of these plants and, in turn, which chemicals will be prevalent within them. Essential oils (EOs) usually have complex compositions (>300 organic compounds, e.g., alkaloids, flavonoids, phenolic acids, saponins and terpenes) and are obtained from botanically defined plant raw materials by dry/steam distillation or a suitable mechanical process (without heating). In certain cases, an antioxidant may be added to the EO (EOs are produced by more than 17,500 species of plants, but only ca. 250 EOs are commercially available). The interesting bioactivity of the chemicals produced by plants renders them high in value, motivating investment in their production, extraction and analysis. Traditional methods for effectively extracting plant-derived biomolecules include cold pressing and hydro/steam distillation; newer methods include solvent/Soxhlet extractions and sustainable processes that reduce waste, decrease processing times and deliver competitive yields, examples of which include microwave-assisted extraction (MAE), ultrasound-assisted extraction (UAE), subcritical water extraction (SWE) and supercritical CO2 extraction (scCO2). Once extracted, analytical techniques such as chromatography and mass spectrometry may be used to analyse the contents of the high-value extracts within a given feedstock. The bioactive components, which can be used in a variety of formulations and products (e.g., displaying anti-aging, antibacterial, anticancer, anti-depressive, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiparasitic, antiviral and anti-stress properties), are biorenewable high-value chemicals.