Essential Oils

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Molecular Target: DNA, RNA, and Gene Expression

Many plants contain secondary metabolites that can cause mutations and malformations (by alkylating DNA bases, by intercalating or inserting themselves between base pairs of DNA, or by oxidizing DNA).
These interactions are powerful means for plants to defend again microbes and even herbivores, if not immediately, certainly in the long run.


A large share of this activity is mediated by so-called epoxides  molecules with a structural element where two carbons and one oxygen form a ring), which tend to react with many biological substrates. DNA among them. Epoxides are generally not found in essential oils and are generally avoided in phytotherapy


Secondary metabolites have yet another way to modify, not necessarily DNA itself, but gene expression. Humans have about twenty-five thousand genes, which are expressed in different cells and organs in a differential fashion. Specific transcription factors (another type of functional protein) are present, which regulate gene expression.


The covalent and noncovalent modifications of proteins described above also effect transcription factors. Preliminary experiments show that mixtures of secondary metabolites as they occur in plants can trigger the expression of several hundred genes, which are relevant in different pathways.

Reference: The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils: Kurt Schnaubel

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