A natural product is a chemical compound or substance produced by a living organism—that is, found in nature.[2][3] In the broadest sense, natural products include any substance produced by life.[4][5] Natural products can also be prepared by chemical synthesis (both semisynthesis and total synthesis) and have played a central role in the development of the field of organic chemistry by providing challenging synthetic targets. 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.[6]

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.[7] Within the field of medicinal chemistry, the definition is often further restricted to secondary metabolites.[8][9] Secondary metabolites are not essential for survival, but nevertheless provide organisms that produce them an evolutionary advantage.[10] Many secondary metabolites are cytotoxic and have been selected and optimized through evolution for use as “chemical warfare” agents against prey, predators, and competing organisms.[11]

Natural products sometimes have therapeutic benefit as traditional medicines for treating diseases, yielding knowledge to derive active components as lead compounds for drug discovery.[12] Although natural products have inspired numerous U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs, drug development from natural sources has received declining attention by pharmaceutical companies, partly due to unreliable access and supply, intellectual property concerns, seasonal or environmental variability of composition, and loss of sources due to rising extinction rates.[12]

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