The Impact of Drought Stress on the Quality of Spice and Medicinal Plants

  • Dirk Selmar
  • Maik Kleinwächter
  • Sara Abouzeid
  • Mahdi Yahyazadeh
  • Melanie Nowak


This review addresses the well known phenomenon that spice and medicinal plants grown under semi-arid conditions generally reveal significantly higher concentrations of relevant natural products than identical plants, which however are cultivated in moderate climates. Unfortunately, only limited information on this intriguing phenomenon is available. The corresponding data are compiled, the relevant aspects are outlined, and the metabolic background is presented. Based on these reflections, it becomes obvious that drought stress and the related metabolic changes are responsible for the higher natural product accumulation in plants grown in semi-arid regions. In principle, there are three causes: first, the effect might be a consequence of a reduced production of biomass in the stressed plants. Even without an enhancement of biosynthesis of natural products, their concentration on dry or fresh weight basis simply will be elevated. Secondly, the drought stress enhances the actual rate of biosynthesis of natural products due to a passive shift or thirdly, due to an active up-regulation of the enzymes involved in natural product biosynthesis. The latter both options are related to the strongly enhanced reduction status of the leaves exposed to drought stress. The over-reduction, which goes along with a strongly enhanced concentration of NADPH+H+, directly results in a passive increase of all processes consuming NADPH+H+, including the biosyntheses of highly reduced secondary plant products. Alternatively, the enzymes responsible for the biosynthesis of natural products could be actively up-regulated. The corresponding increment in NADPH+H+ consumption significantly contributes to the dissipation of the stress related surplus of energy and thus, is part of the machinery that prevents the generation of toxic oxygen radicals.


Drought stress Secondary metabolites Over-reduced state Energy surplus Medicinal plants 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dirk Selmar
    • 1
  • Maik Kleinwächter
    • 2
  • Sara Abouzeid
    • 1
  • Mahdi Yahyazadeh
    • 1
  • Melanie Nowak
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Plant BiologyTU BraunschweigBrunswickGermany
  2. 2.Repha GmbH Biologische ArzneimittelLangenhagenGermany

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