The Power of Plants (part I)

Forging the Decade of Greater Understanding About the Power of Plants to Solve Human Problems

NATIVE EXTRACTS’ Lead Biochemist, Dale Savins and Biotechnologist Dr. Evan Stephens discuss how the phytonutrients involved in the growth, protection and pollination of plants can also contribute to the protection and well-being of other living things. Through a decade of botanical extraction innovation and extensive plant profiling using a number of university plant analysis laboratories, NE has built a comprehensive library of these valuable phytonutrients; provided by nature, extracted in their natural entourage and available to function in synergy, as nature intended.


THE POWER TO PROTECT | How plants' resilience translate to human health

Have you ever wondered how the leaves and the fruits of plants remain out in the strong sun all day without suffering any damage from ultraviolet radiation? For us it can be as little as an hour before we burn on a harsh summer day. Most animals have a thick leather skin or a coat of hair that protects them, and a tree trunk has a layer of bark, but the delicate leaves and fruits of plants have no such obvious protection.

How do plants protect themselves from predators, UV radiation, microbial attack or regulate cell growth and encourage pollination?

The answer to these questions is that they have phytonutrients; an exquisite biochemistry of vitamins and secondary metabolites that protect them from photosynthetic stress, oxidative damage and regulate physiological processes at the molecular level. Polyphenols are a large group of secondary metabolites that include the subclasses flavonoids, phenolic acids, lignans and stilbenes, with flavonoids being the most studied group.

In pursuit to learn more about the phyto-compounds found in a species profile, we share information from peer reviewed research on the compounds below. This is for educational purposes and is not based on clinical trials of the Cellular Extract. Cellular Extracts deliver natural molecules in their water-soluble entourage and we continue to learn more about these natural compounds.


Flavonoids such as quercetin and anthocyanins are common in plants and play key roles in activities such as attracting pollinators, cell growth regulation, seed germination and photosynthesis as well as plant defence and signalling in response to stress conditions2;3.


Quercetin provides tolerance to chemical and physical stressors in plants such as UV radiation through its powerful antioxidant potential, with an ability to increase or decrease physiological and biochemical processes as required. Topical use through moisturisers enriched with botanical extracts such as a white tea or yerba mate can also offer this powerful antioxidant ability in addition to anti-inflammatory properties on the skin. In the diet, quercetin occurs as a glycoside or aglycone with oregano, onions, capers, apples, grapes, berries and tea being good sources4. In vivo, quercetin is able to provide anti-allergenic activity through acting on leukocytes, in addition to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties demonstrated through downregulation of inflammatory pathways and free radical scavenging.


Anthocyanins are water soluble compounds found in brightly coloured foods such as berries, grapes, currants and other coloured fruits, vegetables, beans and grains. In plants they have key roles in signalling pathways, antimicrobial capabilities, photoprotection, biological defence and can also act as a feeding deterrent. Many of the protective properties of anthocyanins can be used in therapeutic products both topically and through ingestion. In skin care products these phytocompounds can work to defend the skin against sun damage through UV protection and anti-tyrosinase activity and help maintain skin viability through antioxidant, antiglycation and anti-inflammatory mechanisms5. When ingested, anthocyanins act to protect the body from oxidative stress and non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular and liver damage, elevated blood pressure, obesity and diabetes6.


Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, functioning as a free radical scavenger and a cofactor for the enzymes involved in plant and human metabolism. When vitamin C rich products are ingested, such as drinking fresh orange juice or applied topically, such as Kakadu Plum Cellular Extract, the vitamin C is absorbed and takes part in various physiological processes: these include iron absorption, collagen synthesis, immunity stimulation, and epigenetic regulation. Due to its water-soluble nature, vitamin C can protect indispensable molecules such as proteins and nucleic acids from the free radicals and reactive oxygen species generated through normal metabolism in plasma and tissues. As in humans, vitamin C promotes iron uptake in plants and plays an important role as an antioxidant through the direct scavenging of reactive oxygen species (ROS), the removal of hydrogen peroxide and improvement of the plant’s tolerance to various environmental stresses.

By studying the role of these phytonutrients in situ we can have a greater understanding of the power of the phytonutrients we are able to harness through extraction in their natural entourage, functioning in synergy as nature intended.


For 10 years, NATIVE EXTRACTS has been evolving the science of the botanical extract and sharing new data on species’ water-soluble entourages. At a time when isolation and purification of a single compound and synthetic standardisation was the focus, we focused our work on the importance of transferring the concert of natural phyto-compounds in their synergistic relationships as they existed in the cell of a fruit, leaf, flower, fungi, and more. Today, our work puts us centre stage as the cosmetic, nutraceutical and pharmaceutical industries are entering a new decade of global research on natural compounds and their interactions - researching high value compounds to solve human problems - the value of these relationships designed by nature. 

Owner, Lisa Carroll, recognised the importance of pushing the boundaries of analytical technology to build libraries of phytonutrient profiles, which over this time has become a highly sought after library of knowledge for multiple university research projects. More recently her team and industry partners have been able to push beyond identifying 3-12 phyto-compounds to over 600 unique and individual metabolites in one species’ extract, along with running multiple anti-inflammatory screenings on over 70 botanical Cellular Extracts to identify new biomarkers for a range of objectives. This is a very exciting time for the global scientific community, new drug delivery, patents for application/use, and new opportunities for growers and strengthening our primary industry.  

“Her team and industry partners have been able to push beyond identifying 3-12 phyto-compounds to over 600 unique and individual metabolites in one species’ extract”




Although nutrition has traditionally been considered a result of diet or ingestible supplements, there is a major movement from skincare brands to start incorporating this molecular research into their formulations and many cosmetic brands are complementing skin care regimes with ingestible nutrients, creating nutrient-rich products that are taken internally to promote skin health. Further research is looking at how topical delivery of high value compounds can contribute to health-span.

Whether you are focused on formulating topical or ingestible products, the focus is on health-span, providing natural, plant-based nutrients to support our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing as we live longer. 

Research in this space has never been more exciting and the volume of studies on phytonutrients has been increasing exponentially since the 1990s. There are roughly around 300,000 plant species on planet Earth, and they all have very different compositions, and that’s before we consider different cultivars within each single species. Various cultivars can have dramatically different profiles of their phytonutrient content. With such a great diversity in botanical cultivars and species available, it is of great value to understand and harness the power of the phytonutrients they can provide, utilised in their most powerful synergy, within their entourage, to promote our health and well-being.


Did you know you can search botanicals compound profiles on our website by phyto-compound? Contact us if you would like to talk to our technical team about phyto-compounds or request a datasheet that provides a comprehensive summary of the phyto-compounds found in our botanical extracts, presented within their water-soluble entourage.





1    Paciolla, C. et al. (2019) Vitamin C in Plants: From Functions to Biofortification. Antioxidants, 8(11): 51

2    Jan, R. et al. (2022) Bioactivity and Therapeutic Potential of Kaempferol and Quercetin: New Insights for Plant and Human Health. Plants, 11(19): 17

3    Singh, P. et al. (2021) The Role of Quercetin in Plants. Plant Physiology and Biochemistry, 166: 10-19

4    Nwaze, C. et al. (2022) Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Quercetin: A Review. Journal of Drug Delivery and Therapeutics, 12(4): 205-210 

5    Thilavech, T. et al. (2016) Cyanidin-3-rutinoside Attenuates Methylglyoxal-induced Protein Glycation and DNA Damage via Carbonyl Trapping Ability and Scavenging Reactive Oxygen Species. BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies 16: 138

6     Khoo, H. et al. (2017) Anthocyanidins and Anthocyanins: Colored Pigments as Food, Pharmaceutical Ingredients, and the Potential Health Benefits. Food & Nutrition Research, 61(1)