Aromatic Compounds in Plants: Functions Beyond Adding Deliciousness

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I purchased some oregano at the market the other day. As its persisting, pleasant smell provided a lot of pleasure on my way home, I found myself asking: what is this deliciousness? Where does it come from?

The characteristic properties of many herbs and spices can be ascribed to essential oils, or aromatic compounds. These compounds are often distinct for certain plants – for instance, carvacrol in oregano – and not only provide cooks with great tools for  enhancing foods, but also serve significant functions for the plants themselves.

Aromatic chemicals have proven to provide efficient protection against insects and other herbivores, and many studies suggest that compounds such as carvacrol have considerable effects on the structural and functional properties of cytoplasmatic membrane of microbes, and thus serve protect the plant against harmful microorganisms.

The defensive aroma chemicals, however, can also have disruptive effects on a plant’s own cells, so…

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