Phytochemicals - A New Class of Feed Additives

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About Author: Manoj Dupati, Shiva Kumar, Sharadamma K. C. and Radhakrishna P. M.
Provimi Animal Nutrition India Pvt Limited,
Yelahanka New Town, Bangalore – 560 106,
Karnataka, India

Plants have provided human beings for all needs in terms of shelter, clothing, food, ?avours and medicines. In particular plants have formed the basis of sophisticated traditional medicine systems like Ayurvedic, Unani, and Chinese amongst others. These systems of medicine have given rise to some important drugs which are being used in modern medicine too. This article highlights and provides an overview of the classes of molecules present in plants having specific biological activity and finds use as feed additives ensuring better health and productivity of live stock.

Plant produces a vast amount of metabolites, which is distinguished into primary and secondary metabolites. The term primary metabolites comprises of the necessary molecules for the survival of the plant cells. While secondary plant metabolites occur usually only in special, differentiated cells and are not necessary for the cells themselves but may be useful for the plant as a whole. (Crozier et al., 20071)

Reference ID: PHARMATUTOR-ART-1122

Primary Metabolites are necessary for basic survival and propagation –which is for both anabolic and catabolic pathways, assimilation, respiration, transportation, differentiation. They are common to all plants and Phytosterols, Acyl lipids, Nucleotides, Amino acids, Organic acids etc. are some of the few examples of them.

The secondary metabolites are diverse within the plant kingdom (Kossel 1891) they are the ones which give plants color, flavor and smell. We use them as phytomedicines, drugs, insecticides, dyes, flavorings and fragrances. Plants use secondary metabolites as a defense against pathogens and predators - bactericidal, repellent, poison, and also as attractants to encourage fertilization and dissemination.

Recent and continuing changes to legislation controlling the use of antibiotic feed additives have stimulated interest in bioactive metabolites in plants generally called as phtochemicals as alternative performance enhancers on the body functions of farm production animals.

These phytochemicals originate from leaves, roots, tubers or fruits of herbs, spices and other plants. They may be available in solid, dried, and ground forms, or as extracts. In simple terms, phytochemicals are products of plant origin, which are chemically active due to the specific functional group they carry and geometrical shapes & configuration. The common sources of plant metabolites possessing bioactivity are summarized in Table 1.

Table 1: Common source of plant metabolites

Plant metabolites



Commonly present in all the plants


Mangoes,Hops,Lemon grass, East Indian Bay tree


Found in red and blue fruits such as Raspberries, Blue berries and Vegetables

Ascorbic acid/Bioflavonoid

Found in all citrus fruits


Tomatoes, Parsley,  Oranges, Grape fruit and spinach

Beta carotenoids

Carrot,squash,Sweet potatoes


Commonly found in all desert plant ( yucca schidigera) (quillaja saponaria)


Cruciferous vegetables ( broccoli, Cabbage, Kale)


Numerous plants

These phytochemicals are being explored to provide solutions for improving feed intake and supporting the digestive system by suitably manipulating feed formulations.

The three major groups of phytochemicals commonly known and, which are increasingly coming under focus, are Alkaloids, Terpenoids and Phenolics. These plant metabolites are known to stimulate immune system, enhance antioxidant activity provide antimicrobial effect and better feed conversion efficiencies (Caspar wenk 2006). Some of these phytochemicals may help to ensure the health and high performance of farm animals without antibiotics being added to the feed. The Principal activity of the metabolites has been presented by several authors.

Few phytochemicals are well known to have antimicrobial ability e.g. tannic acid, which inhibits the growth of intestinal bacteria such as Bacteriodes fragilis, Clostridium.perfringens, E.coli and Enterobacter.cloacae (Chung et al., 1993)2. Some of the Terpenes, which contain essential oils, have long been recognized for their biotransformation activity towards toxins entering the liver helping release of specific enzymes that can degrade toxins to harmless metabolites.

Another example that can be cited is β-carotene a tetraterpene that serves as precursor to Vitamin A in both food and feed applications (W. W. Weeks, 19863)
Further the effect of hymus vulgaris (thyme) and cinnamomium zeylanicum  (cinnamon) on the performance of broilers was studied by ( Al-Kasie et al., 20094) who found their effect on the live weight gain and the improvement of the health of poultry in addition to other performance traits, feed conversion ratio and feed intake.

It is noted that flavor component of garlic (Allium sativum) has been found to inhibit development of tumors in different organs. Diallyl sulfide (DAS) an active compound in garlic is reported to have antioxidant activity (Shukla et al., 20035).



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