Post Credit: Dr Michael Buch Chief Science Officer, YL
Today I thought I’d discuss free radicals. I don’t mean political extremists wandering the globe, but rather those highly reactive molecules that have unpaired electrons on them. You see, electrons like to exist in pairs (if you want to impress your friends you can tell them that the reason electrons like to pair up is because it lowers their free energy due to entropic factors).Because free radicals have unpaired electrons, they are highly reactive because they want to either give up the extra electron or gain an extra electron to complete the pair. When radicals pull an electron from a neighboring molecule, that molecule is said to be “oxidized”. When free radicals oxidize proteins and other molecules of biological importance in the body, the body enters a state known as “oxidative stress” in which cells can be damaged. Luckily for us, there are lots of “antioxidants” in many plant-based materials, especially essential oils.*Antioxidants* are molecules that are easily oxidized, meaning they easily donate electrons to any free radicals nearby. In fact, they donate their electrons more easily than most other molecules in the human body. When antioxidants donate electrons to nearby free radicals, they turn the free radicals into “normal molecules” with paired electrons, which renders them much less harmful. In a very real sense, antioxidants sacrifice themselves to save proteins and other biologically important molecules around them. So let’s hear it for antioxidants …they are biochemical heroes!