Natural product

From Biology-Online Dictionary | Biology-Online Dictionary


noun, plural: natural products

Any compound produced naturally by a living organism although some of them are synthesized through chemical synthesis, especially those that are for commercial use


Biomolecules refer to those molecule produced by living organisms. They include proteins, polysaccharides, nucleic acids, amino acids, metabolites and natural products. Natural products are those produced by a living organism. They include biologically-derived materials (e.g. wood and silk), bio-based materials (e.g. cornstarch), and bodily fluids (e.g. plant exudates and milk). Other natural materials are also considered natural products, such as coal and soil.

Some of them are produced through chemical synthesis for their commercial use. Thus, the term has extended to include dietary supplements, cosmetics, and foods from natural sources.1 Natural products are also collected (e.g. by extraction) and assayed for possible use as medicine. An example of this is the discovery of penicillin, the first antibiotic originally derived from Penicillium notatum. Upon the discovery of penicillin, samples from soil and water were collected to discover natural products from microorganisms that could potentially serve as antibiotic agents. Eventually, streptomycin and tetracycline from Streptomyces spp. were discovered.

In plants, certain phytochemicals (e.g. phenols, polyphenols, tannins, terpenes, and alkaloids) and plant-derived compounds (e.g. morphine, cocaine, quinine, tubocurarine, muscarine, and nicotine) are collected for medicine or recreational use. In animals, venoms from snakes, spiders, scorpions, bees, frogs, etc. are collected largely for research and medical purposes.

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1 "About Us". (n.d.) Natural Products Foundation. Retrieved from