Amino Acids

Amino acids

Amino acids are molecules that contain nitrogen and are the basic building blocks of proteins, connected in various combinations by a peptide bond. Their sequence determines the conformation (or 3D structure), which dictates the type and function of the protein they create. Each plays unique and interchangeable roles in plant and animal metabolism.

Each contains an amino group (containing nitrogen), a carboxyl group, and a variable side chain, and the differences in their side group are what make each AA unique.

In plants, amino acids are broken down into two groups, protein and non-protein.

Plant proteins are essential for carrying out specific cellular functions and are seed-based store-houses for nitrogen and guard against would-be predators. Some are toxic to humans, and some are of daily necessity in the human diet.

Some, furthermore, have been developed into specific drugs. For example:

  • L-Dopa, from fava beans and other Fabaceae/Leguminosae families, is used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease
  • L-Cysteine, found in all plants, is used in eye drops and topical antibiotics.
  • L-Arginine stimulates the pituitary gland to release growth hormone.
  • L-Aspartic acid is present in coffee, licorice and is neuro-excitatory.

 Herbal Examples:

  • Urtica diocia contains amines in stinging hairs including histamine & choline

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