Triterpenes are a group of chemical compound found in plant gums and resins. As the name suggests, they are composed of three units of terpenes and their molecular formula is C30H48. Alternatively, they may also be considered to comprising six units of isoprene. It is worth mentioning here that plants, animals and fungi all produce triterpenes. Arguably, the most significant example of this is squalene which forms the base of nearly all steroids. In fact, triterpenes comprise a considerable part of the lipids found in all plants. So far, scientists have been able to isolate more than 4000 different triterpenes. All these compounds are antecedents to steroids in plants as well as animals.

Triterpenes are a class of naturally occurring compounds found in all plants and like many other beneficial compounds present in the plants, these compounds also shield the plants from infections caused by various microbes.

Steroids are basically plant membrane components and triterpenes as well as steroids happen free, in the form of glycosides. They may also occur is a number of other combined forms.

It is worth mentioning here that triterpenes are present in all living organisms, including plants and animals, even humans. As discussed above, triterpenes are antecedents to steroids. In other words, to produce steroids all living organisms - irrespective of whether it is a plant or an animal, will first need to produce triterpenes. Triterpenes occur naturally as precursors to steroids, which also occur naturally in plants and animals. In fact, steroids are a vital constituent of both plants and animals as they help in controlling inflammation, both naturally and safely.

Triterpenes are a truly multipurpose group of ingredients that are biologically active and present in many photo extracts. Often, they occur in the form of glycol-conjugates having a distinctive bioactivity that is different from their aglycone equivalents. It is possible to deglycate triterpenes by chemical and enzymatic reactions, while biotransformation of triterpenes is usually more explicit and it happens without any superfluous modification of the molecules.

It is also possible to undertake further modification of triterpenes' structure with a view to augment their pharmaceutical importance by applying biotransformational processes making use of isolated enzymes or microorganisms. Precisely speaking, the entire cell process is positive provided scientists prefer cofactor-dependent modifications, for instance oxidation/hydroxylations of the lead compounds. Nevertheless, there are some disadvantages in isolating triterpenes from domestic plants as the nature of the extracts as well as their stability varies. Then again, it is possible to triumph over these issues by using the cell culture technology, which involves use of ex vivo cultivated cells for reproducible creation of the intended compound.

A particular type of triterpenes known as shea triterpenes occur naturally in the shea nut.

On the other hand, prescription steroids are the broadest range of pharmaceutical intervention for managing inflammation. These steroids are not only most powerful, but also have the potential to turn out to be most hazardous.

Prescription steroids

Using prescription steroids have a number of effects. Such steroids get in the way with ability of the inflammatory cells to come together and subsequently lessen capillary permeability. As a result, it becomes difficult for the inflammatory cells to pass through the walls of the blood vessels. Prescription steroids also interfere with cytokine communication as well as with synthesis of prostaglandin (a constituent of the COX cascade). Prescription steroids also stop the white blood cells (leukocytes) from releasing superoxides.

Prescription steroids should be taken with great deal of caution because they may lead to several adverse effects, which may include hypertension, suppression of the immune system, destruction of bones, ulcers, psychosis, thrombo-embolism, heart failure and even death.

Despite the adverse effects, prescription steroids offer a number of health benefits to the human body. For instance, prescription steroids help to make the stomach as well as the digestive system stronger, improve allergy and inflammation. In addition, prescription steroids also help to improve tumour.

Characteristically, triterpenes that are precursors to steroids both in plants and animals have a white crystalline form. They are complex biochemical and many of these compounds possess various important therapeutic properties.

Health benefits

Triterpenes offer us various health benefits. For instance, it is known that the triterpene present in Ganoderma plays a variety of significant roles in the well being of our body. Often, this triterpene shows bioactivity like anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal. In addition, this naturally occurring compound in plants and animals helps to balance the blood lipid levels and maintain a healthy blood pressure.

Findings of several studies have revealed that triterpenes are also responsible for transmitting nerve impulses to the cortex of the brain. As a result, triterpenes improve the functioning of the central nervous system (CNS). These compounds also augment the action of the hormones in the body and, at the same time; help to sustain constancy among a variety of bodily systems.

During experiments undertaken in laboratories, researchers discovered that triterpenes possess the ability to inhibit the growth of six different types of carcinogenic cells. However, scientists are yet to ascertain the full potential of these compounds. However, this may possibly be primarily responsible for the cancer combating properties of a variety of plants and fruits. More advanced studies have revealed that triterpenes also kindle the immune system and they enclose various vital anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties.

Triterpenes have wide-ranging effects and these include relieving pain, reducing inflammation and also help in promoting healthy sleep.

A mushroom called chaga is known to enclose highly significant amounts of potent antioxidants that have several extensive health applications and they also enclose the beneficial triterpenes. The other crucial chemical constituents in this mushroom include beta-glucans, many other polysaccharides and phytosterols that contribute to an assorted range of medicinal benefits.

Chaga encloses a therapeutically exciting substance called ergosterol peroxide. This substance has demonstrated anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour and immunosuppressive properties during tests undertaken in laboratories.

Chaga is said to be an adaptogen - a substance that works to balance as well as normalize the bodily functions.

When triterpenes are applied on surgical wounds, they bring on a decrease in the time to closure. In fact, this effect of triterpenes was reported in practically all types of wounds. In addition, in a microenvironment, triterpenes also alter the production of ROS in the wounds, thereby speeding up the tissue repair process significantly.

Triterpenes may also encourage cell proliferation, migration of cells and deposition of collagen. It is apparent that this group of compounds also promotes healing of wounds. Nevertheless, there is a need for toxicological studies with triterpenes to establish this view. As a whole, the findings of these studies reveal that triterpenes are a group of molecules having significant potential for developing new medications for treating skin injuries.


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