There is a universe of compounds in plants.
I call this a library.
The compounds themselves are found in volumes. That is, multiple variations of the same core compound.
A great example of this evolutionary diversity, are the ginsenosides of ginseng.
Ginseng has many variants of almost identical ginsenosides.
They all the have same polysaccaride core with minimal alterations in branch structure.
They are however, a world apart in the effects they produce on the body.
Their effects are both synergistic and contradictory.
Depending on the variant, a specific ginsenoside can cause excitement while an other produces relaxation.
It is this kind of variation in plants that allow botanical foods to acts as tools deployed to extend human life.
Some of the compounds are simple fuels that supply energy while others are unique compounds that improve function while stimulating the body to ward off disease.
Unlocking the secrets of plants dates back to the Ancient healers.
They grouped them according to practice and custom. Above all, they did no harm.
In addition to antioxidants, plants contain other phytonutrients that provide benefits far beyond the macro nutrients they supply.
Phytosterols are substances that structurally resemble human steroids.
Phytoestrogens for example, are compounds that mimic the activity of human estrogen.
This biological activity is based on their structural resemblance to a steroid, which gives it the ability to pass through membranes and access the nucleus of cells.
Phytoestrogens also have an ability to bind to membrane receptors and either mimic or block the activity of the natural steroid.
The olive is another example.
Olive is the fruit of the olive tree and contains a treasure trove of health enhancing compounds.
In fact, the oil from the olive is probably responsible for the low incidence of coronary heart disease experienced by Mediterranean peoples.
This is due to the olive’s high mono-unsaturated fatty acid content.
It is also theorized that the oleic acid-rich low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are more resistant to oxidative forces than other LDL species.
It is further theorized that antioxidant vitamins present in olive oil prevent LDL oxidation from occurring.