A natural product is a chemical compound or substance produced by a living organism – found in nature. In the broadest sense, natural products include any substance produced by life. The term natural product has also been extended for commercial purposes to refer to cosmetics, dietary supplements, and foods produced from natural sources without added artificial ingredients.
Within the field of organic chemistry, the definition of natural products is usually restricted to mean purified organic compounds isolated from natural sources that are produced by the pathways of primary or secondary metabolism. Within the field of medicinal chemistry, the definition is often further restricted to secondary metabolites. Secondary metabolites are not essential for survival, but nevertheless provide organisms that produce them an evolutionary advantage. Many natural products are cytotoxic and have been selected and optimized through evolution for use as "chemical warfare" agents against, prey, predators, and competing organisms.
Natural products sometimes have pharmacological or biological activity that can be of therapeutic benefit in treating diseases. As such, natural products are the active components of many traditional medicines. Furthermore synthetic analogs of natural products with improved potency and safety can be prepared and therefore natural products are often used as starting points for drug discovery.In fact, natural products are the inspiration for approximately one half of U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs.
Natural products can also be prepared by total synthesis and have played a central role in the development of the field of organic chemistry by providing challenging synthetic targets.
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