The dependence of mankind upon the plant kingdom goes far beyond the production of food crops. A great number of plant species produce secondary metabolites that possess valuable properties, many of which have been studied and applied mainly to the pharmaceutical and food industries. Secondary metabolites such as terpenes and phenolic acid compounds have become very important due to their chemical and biological properties and play a major role in plant and human health. Terpenes are the primary constituents of the essential oils of many types of plants and flowers, and have been extensively used as natural flavor additives for food, as fragrances in perfumery, and in traditional and alternative medicines. On the other hand, phenolic acid compounds are plant metabolites widely distributed throughout the plant kingdom, which have a potential use as natural antioxidants in processed foods. The aim of this chapter is to provide an overview of the current knowledge on these metabolites regarding their biosynthesis, main sources and methods for their obtaining and use.
Keywords: Natural products, terpene, phenolic, coumarin, flavonoid, lignan, stilbene, secondary metabolites, biological activity, biotechnological production, biosynthesis.