Oxidation is essential to many living organisms for the production of energy to fuel biological processes. However, oxygen-centred free radicals and other reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are continuously, produced in vivo, result in cell death and tissue damage. The role of oxygen radicals has been implicated in several diseases, including cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, ageing, etc.. Antioxidants are vital substances which possess the ability to protect the body from damage caused by free radical induced oxidative stress. There is an increasing interest in natural antioxidants, e.g., polyphenols, present in medicinal and dietary plants, which might help in preventing oxidative damage. Polyphenols possess ideal structural chemistry for free radical scavenging activity, and they have been shown to be more effective antioxidants in vitro than tocopherols and ascorbate. Antioxidant properties of polyphenols arise from their high reactivity as hydrogen or electron donors, and from the ability of the polyphenol derived radical to stabilise and delocalise the unpaired electron (chain-breaking function), and from their ability to chelate transition metal ions.
Human body has multiple mechanisms especially enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidant systems to protect the cellular molecules against reactive oxygen species (ROS) induced damage. However, the innate defense may not be enough for severe or continued oxidative stress. Hence, certain amounts of exogenous antioxidants are constantly required to maintain an adequate level of antioxidants in order to balance the ROS in human body. Many synthetic antioxidants such as butylated hydroxyl anisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxyl toluene (BHT) are very effective and are used for industrial processing but they possess potential health risk and toxic properties to human health and should be replaced with natural antioxidants. Hence, compounds especially from natural sources capable of protecting against ROS mediated damage may have potential application in prevention and/or curing of diseases.